Released in 2017, DreamWorks’ “The Boss Baby” has gone from the butt of countless jokes about Oscar credibility (it was nominated for Best Animated Film in 2018) to a full-fledged franchise complete with a short film, Netflix television series and an interactive Netflix special. Despite middling reviews and plenty of disposition from moviegoers, the original animated movie based on a children’s book series of the same name more than quadrupled its base budget at the box office so a sequel was always inevitable. Released on both big screens and on NBC’s streaming service Peacock, “The Boss Baby: Family Business” or simply “The Boss Baby 2” brings back Alec Baldwin as the titular Boss Baby Ted Templeton but this time James Marsden replaces Tobey Maguire as an adult Tim Templeton while Amy Sedaris play Tim’s baby daughter Tina who recruits the Templeton brothers for a new mission to save the world from the villainous Dr. Erwin Armstrong, played by Jeff Goldblum. “The Boss Baby 2” certainly does little to win over new fans, but if you enjoyed the first film this entry serves as a rare sequel that’s simply on-par with its predecessor at its best and worst.
“The Boss Baby 2” is exactly what you would expect. This convoluted franchise builder returns main characters Ted and Tim to their younger forms from the previous movie as Tim’s daughter Tina recruits them to stop Dr. Armstrong, the leader of a prestigious school for youngers, where Tim’s older daughter Tabitha has been enrolled, who has a dark scheme with plans of world domination. What ensues is an overabundance of ridiculous baby-themed action that makes no sense and really isn’t supposed to, because this is a movie for kids. Where “The Boss Baby 2” stands apart from the previous film though is in its messages which again are sadly downplayed in favor of its more ridiculous elements. The previous movie was more about the bonding of a previously only-child with his new brother and learning to share his world with him. This film is more about the brothers having grown apart in their old age and rekindling their love for each other after they went different ways in life. Ted became a businessman with no time for games and Tim maintained his imagination and became a stay-at-home dad. Through their bonding the two learn that maturity and childhood wonder are both important parts of growing up, but there’s a happy medium you have to balance when you become an adult. It’s honestly a nice message if you choose to read into this film that deeply.
Another added element is the relationship between Tim and his daughter Tabitha. Honestly the whole idea of having a Boss Baby of his own, young Tina, is heavily overshadowed with Tina being more of a means to an end while Tim’s relationship with Tabitha is developed a lot more over the course of the film especially when Tim becomes his younger self and enrolls in Tabitha’s school. There he learns that she is smart and obsessed with the idea of being a grown up but is also intimidated by living up to her father’s imaginative outlook on the world. I found this to be the most touching element of the film as it expands Tim’s story from the previous movie to him having to relate to his own daughter and the idea of a child being more worried about living up to their parent’s imagination rather than their success in business is also a unique spin. Strangely enough, “The Boss Baby 2” feels less about the Baby and more about the children from the first movie growing up, at least until you get to the overarching narrative involving the villain, Dr. Armstrong, who is played by a perfectly cast Jeff Goldblum. Dr. Armstrong is an eccentric villain with a fun twist that see’s baby’s as the superior minds of the world and starts a school obsessed with educating them rather than allowing them to embrace their childhoods properly. His motives had some deep potential but sadly I felt like he was underdeveloped and, like Tina, more of a means to an end to evolve this movie from a deeper and simple animated film about family dynamics and the balance between childhood wonder and adult responsibilities into something more insane that would keep the kids properly occupied. God forbid children actually learn something important from their animated features. It’s not like Pixar made a killing off of films that balance entertainment and depth.
And there lies the basic problem not just with this movie, but with the franchise as a whole. It’s more focused on entertaining your kids than it is actually teaching them something. “The Boss Baby” is a ridiculous premise to begin with but it was born from a series of books that explored the insecurities of a child who has a new sibling thrust into their life and sees their simple existence thrown into relative chaos. It’s an experience any kid could go through, and the first film merely used that uncomfortable world change as a baseline for an animated action comedy that made NO sense. This film is pretty much the same, forsaking the more subtle and touching elements in favor of a more entertaining spin. As with the first film, I found the sequel to be ironically enjoyable because of how ridiculous things can get and, to its credit, this follow-up didn’t annoy or irritate me any more or less than the previous movie. In some ways I thought it was better and in others is paled compared to the first film. The voice acting is still solid, and the animation is quite enjoyable which means it meets the basic standards for being an at least passable animated movie at worst. But as strange as it might sound, I just expected more, not just from this sequel but from the franchise as a whole. There’s so much potential when creating a kids movie about the struggles of sibling love and dealing with a new addition to the family. This franchise might try to tackle those core ideas at times, but those universal themes are often overshadowed by busier, more insane plots meant more for entertainment and less for nuance where in better hands I feel like things would have been much more balanced.
“The Boss Baby” as a franchise continues to settle for giving kids what then need to stay entertained for a couple of hours and not what they need to mature and understand the world around them a bit more. The best animated movies can find that perfect balance but “The Boss Baby” franchise is more about the insanity and what depth it does incorporate remains an afterthought even in the sequel. Despite respectable animation and voice work “The Boss Baby: Family Business” is merely a safe continuation of a series quickly turning in to DreamWorks’ latest cash grab franchise to keep their wheels spinning. But even from that perspective the studio has done so much better with “Kung-Fu Panda” and “How to Train Your Dragon” proving that DreamWorks is better than this. I can appreciate what themes “The Boss Baby 2” does bring to the table, but I wish the filmmakers were more dedicated at getting to the heart of it all and less dedicated to trying to make an entertaining adventure work around it. In the end “The Boss Baby 2” is no better or worse than its predecessor. It does what it needs to do and keeps the series going giving fans what they expect and maybe a little bit more. It’s harmless fun with some heartfelt flair, but it’s nothing truly special at its core and you already know if it’s your kind of movie anyway. To that end, if you have kids who are dying for a new animated feature, I’d safely recommend this film and for those who actually liked the original “Boss Baby” this sequel does just enough to keep the franchise alive.