Dreamworks Animation had a pair of smash hits on their hands in 2016 with “Kung Fu Panda 3” and “Trolls”. The studio sought to continue that success with the first of two offerings in 2017, “The Boss Baby”, which, surprisingly enough, is only the second major animated release of the year so far. While not a perfect animated film, “The Boss Baby” packs enough amusing potty jokes and family fun to be a passable animated adventure, even if it is a bit misguided in its focus on action versus it’s much deeper elements.
“The Boss Baby” is loosly based on the 2010 children’s book of the same name and sees Alec Baldwin voice The Boss Baby, a young manager at Baby Corp where babies with intellectual minds work to preserve love for their kind and are facing the threat of losing love to puppies. The Boss Baby comes into conflict with the story’s lead character and narrator Tim Templeton, voiced as a child by Miles Christopher Bakshi and as a adult by Toby Mcguire, after Tim discovers that his new little brother is really a talking undercover businessman seeking a way to stop a company called Puppy Co., which Tim’s parents work for, from stealing love from babies in favor of puppies.
One thing everyone should know about “The Boss Baby” is that it is very obscure. The concept of a talking, business suit-wearing baby going undercover in a new family sounds like a strange idea for a movie, but the concept isn’t as ridiculously absurd when you see the final product. “The Boss Baby” is well presented in the sense that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It knows how ridiculous its premise is and it runs with it and it’s rather refreshing to see a film that’s not afraid to embrace it’s ridiculousness rather than justify it.
Strangely enough, “The Boss Baby” manages to tackles some pretty deep themes. The concepts of family, brotherly love and rivalry, and the difficult transition that an older sibling would face with a new member of the family coming into the picture are all central points of this entertaining children’s tail. The brothers Tim and The Boss Baby form a relationship that is actually quite relatable and adorable with each having their own lessons to share. Tim enjoys many aspects of being an only child and struggles when the new baby becomes the literal boss of his family, taking the love he once enjoyed away from him. The Boss Baby in turn has never known a family or what it’s like to be loved beyond the praise of his coworkers and higher ups. Together the characters teach two intertwining and thought provoking lessons that actually make “The Boss Baby” an appropriate family film. Combine that with dedicated and talented voice acting and top notch animation and one could say “The Boss Baby” is an important and socially aware piece of animated art, but unfortunately the film betrays itself in many way.
Despite it’s deeper themes that could have easily helped “The Boss Baby” stand out, the movie is very heavily dependent of poop jokes, dry business-based humor, and a completely obscure major conflict that unfortunately overshadows the much more relatable, and frankly enjoyable brother-versus-brother rivalry that makes up the first act.
While the war against Puppy Co actually forces the film to delve into cliché territory, with a surprise villain and a surprise motive that we all should have seen coming. It’s the movie’s inter-brother conflict that really shines and I actually wish the writers took a different direction in their approach to utilizing the source material. The Boss Baby as a character is genuinely adorable at times and seeing Tim Templeton suffer from having a new brother around is actually quite heart wrenching, until you discover that the filmmakers used this conflict as a tool to jumpstart a much less worthy climax that, in all honestly, drags the movie down quite a bit.
All in all “The Boss Baby” is a surprisingly adorable and likable film overall, as ridiculous as its concept may be. The film unfortunately embraces an identity that detracts from its social significance and relies more on poopy jokes and its surprise villain revelation that the film’s two brothers have to endure. Children will enjoy this film and adults may find some great aspects to appreciate as well, but while “The Boss Baby” is not a horrible animated feature by any definition it could have benefited from a more aware writing team and a different direction which, to be honest, is a unique complaint for a film. I know this is supposed to be a kids movie, but as we’ve seen with films like “Up” and “Inside Out” from Pixar it is possible to combine a bit of child-friendly ridiculousness and deep themes well. I just wish “The Boss Baby” took a similar route.