**1/2 out of ****
(for some mild rude humor)
Released: March 31, 2017
Runtime: 97 minutes
Director: Tom McGrath
Starring: Alec Baldwin, Tobey Maguire, Miles Christopher Bakshi, Steve Buscemi, Jimmy Kimmel, Lisa Kudrow
Cute like a baby, disposable like a diaper.
In the zany spirit of Warner Bros animated shorts from yesteryear or the broad comic sensibilities of old Saturday morning cartoons, The Boss Baby is pure unrepentant silliness.
Avoiding Disney/Pixar’s thematic ambitions like it’s a virtue (along with emotional heft), DreamWorks Animation offers up another high octane gigglefest for the pre-tween set. Embracing its ridiculous premise of a baby with the voice of Alec Baldwin who wears suits without explanation or reason, The Boss Baby charges ahead primarily on one speed: manic.
That relentless energy may keep kids gleefully preoccupied for an hour if you’re lucky, but don’t be surprised if they start to squirm with thirty-plus minutes to go. (Also, be prepared with an answer to, “Where do babies come from?”)
It’s not that the material suddenly turns south; it’s a consistently realized comedy from start to finish, but its one-note tone eventually grows monotonous (if always good-natured and upbeat). Alec Baldwin as a baby takes this material even farther than it has any right to go, and the animation is generally cute and lively, but while it’s never a chore to endure The Boss Baby begins to wear out its welcome because it never shifts, expands, grows, or surprises.
Baldwin is the Boss Baby, a corporate wunderkind in heaven’s Baby Corp that maintains a competitive edge for toddler love around the world. He’s sent on a mission to earth to regain primacy for babies among adults because puppy love has vaulted past newborns as the top focus for human affection.
He must work undercover in a home where Tim, a young boy, is an only child. Soon enough Tim’s onto the Boss Baby and wants him gone. Predictably, their relationship follows an arc of fighting at first, then reluctantly teaming up, and finally bonding in brotherly love.
There are a few inspired sequences of 2D animation that envision Tim’s playfully overactive imagination, and it’d be unfair to say that there isn’t some witty comedy peppered throughout this whole thing (there is), but overall, even as the colorful, cute visuals pop with vibrant energy, they never quite conjure anything that’s truly spectacular. And the laughs – while often good – are largely disposable and rarely quotable (except when Baldwin briefly riffs on his iconic line from Glengarry Glen Ross).
The comedy is rooted in physical and scatological humor: poop jokes, gaseous emissions, embarrassing mishaps, and exaggerated violence. These come fast and furious as the plot hops from one episodic sequence to the next.
This material would’ve been better served as a series of shorts taken in smaller doses, online or via a TV series, but for a production at this scale it’s not enough to go short-form through YouTube. Still, a more cost-effective follow-up on Netflix wouldn’t come as a surprise, and even seems inevitable. Or, at the very least, A Boss Baby Christmas special.
The Boss Baby is passable as entertaining hijinks, plus its charisma, energy and charm effectively compensate for a general level of mediocrity, yet while it’s good enough to not be fired halfway through, The Boss Baby isn’t necessarily a must-hire either.