What to say about this movie? It’s funny, yes, but it does push the envelope.
Its source material, a 32-page picture book, seems to be aimed at children whose family life is about to be upset by the arrival of a new baby. In that book, the baby wears a onesie business suit, and the family’s entire routine becomes a round-the-clock effort to keep the baby happy.
In a very broad sense, that is the story of “The Boss Baby” movie. Unfortunately there is not enough plot material in the book to sustain a full-length film. This led to some amping up of story and action by the creatives at Dreamworks Animation, the outfit that gave us the Shrek, Kung Fu Panda and Madagascar trilogies, among others.
The movie opens with a heavenly fiction of babies being prepped for delivery to happy parents. Then we meet a seven-year-old boy named Tim Templeton, a very happy only child. Tim’s bedtime routine includes three books, five hugs, his special song and the full attention of both his parents.
Tim watches, aghast, as a baby wearing a business suit and carrying a briefcase is dropped off by a yellow taxi at the Templeton home and is welcomed by his parents.
From there it’s off to unreality land.
Tim learns quickly that the baby is not a real baby, but an obnoxious business executive from Baby Corp. “You didn’t go to business school, did you?” snarks the baby as the two battle.
Turns out Boss Baby has been ordered to earth from the celestial baby factory, known as Baby Corp. BB’s task is to reduce the growing puppy slice of the family-love pie chart, an existential threat to the future of babies. (Yes, I know, but stay with me here.) Tim and the Baby Boss can’t stand each other, but they agree to work together when the interloper promises to leave as soon as he has accomplished his goal.
Then, having dialed the wacky premise up to 11, the movie aims for 22. There is an evil CEO (but I repeat myself) at the enemy company, Puppyco, with a complicated backstory and a new puppy initiative that Must Be Stopped. There are references to childhood things — infant formula, pacifiers, fold-out books — and then a mean babysitter in drag, a bicycle chase scene, a scramble through airport security, a charter flight of Elvis impersonators headed for Las Vegas and a Puppyco convention where Tim and Boss Baby meet their enemy.
Theoretically, this is a children’s story/movie, and so things work out fine.
Except this isn’t really a movie for young children. The young people in the theater where I saw “The Boss Baby” were between 12 and 14 and obviously were familiar with the Dreamworks Animation oeuvre. They laughed at every preview before the movie, and they laughed all through “The Baby Boss.”
They even laughed at the “Cookies are for closers” line, a play on an Alec Baldwin line in a 25-year-old movie based on a David Mamet play. Mamet doesn’t do kid stuff. Would the children’s mothers even have seen that movie, let alone remembered the line — “Coffee’s only for closers?” I saw the old movie and have read the play since then, and even I had to look it up.
I used to be a child once, and I remember feeling deep envy for a school friend whose parents took the family to every single new children’s movie.
Now I’m thinking I maybe dodged a bullet.