The Boss Baby – Movie Review
Rating: C+ (Above Average)
Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy 20th Century Fox
DreamWorks Animation can best be described as the chocolate box of animation studios. Due to the multitude of projects being worked on concurrently, there is not a specific art style and storytelling approach taken by their films. The Boss Baby could have gone either way and while the animation style is inspired, the story feels overstretched and goes for the easiest jokes. As a short film, this could have been amusing. However, director Tom McGrath relies mostly on Alec Baldwin’s voice coming out of an animated baby to provide the necessary laughs and it does not sustain the runtime. This definitely stands as one of the more mediocre DreamWorks entries.
The highlight of The Boss Baby comes not from any character or a specific joke, but rather the animation. There is a clear 1950s influence, particularly of the UPA shorts, with the simplicity of the designs and some of the physical humour. That a quick visual reference is made to Mr. Magoo is not a mere coincidence. The sequences in which the main character Tim imagines a fantasy world are the most gorgeously realised with an incredible use of colours. McGrath also brings the proper energy to some of the chase scenes that ensue, including one where a cassette is an important possession. The artists also find some clever ways to depict the headquarters in which babies exert their dominance.
The humour mostly relies on obvious baby-related gags, with plenty of buttocks and droll jokes. There’s also the expected joke about a baby wearing a suit and talking like Alec Baldwin. This wears thin rather quickly and it’s also easy to make the inevitable comparison with Family Guy’s similar adult-voiced baby Stewie. The screenplay, credited to Austin Powers scribe Michael McCullers, re-uses comedy that the long running animated sitcom already used up decades ago. Naturally, the film throws in a couple of references to Baldwin’s work, most notably Glengarry Glen Ross. Almost every joke in The Boss Baby is predictable and expected.
Compounding the weak story is a dull villain, who is given an elaborate and convoluted back story to justify his motivation. There are moments of sentiment thrown into the film, mostly through a recurring use of the Beatles song “Blackbird”, but they don’t register the proper response. The script ticks off the necessary boxes, as it tries to justify the extended runtime. The brotherly relationship the film tries to build between Tim and the Boss Baby has almost every cliché and story beat imaginable in this sort of plot line. The Boss Baby desperately tries to create stakes by having him revert to a more baby-like state, but they don’t create the proper impact.
There is some potential inspiration early on, when it seems the script will comment on how babies seemingly take over the household. However, that concept evaporates rather quickly and we are left with stale jokes. The script also cannot decide whether it wants the baby’s actions to exist within Tim’s hyperactive imagination or are actually happening in the real world. The Art Of book is likely filled with amazing illustrations and concept art the animators were able to beautifully bring to life on the screen. One wishes The Boss Baby was funnier and realised this concept was better suited for a short film to play before the next DreamWorks feature.