'The Boss Baby' Review: He's a boss, but also a baby
People can be quite generous with the expression, "This is why we can't have nice things." It's the laziest fallback to complain about something that's, ultimately, inconsequential — take this story on Germany's football team breaking the World Cup trophy, which, as the lede explains, wasn't even the real trophy. It's not a big deal.
In other words, I try to avoid using the phrase lightly. However, after leaving my screening for DreamWorks' The Boss Baby, I only had one thought: This is why we can't have nice things. It would be one thing if The Boss Baby was an unimpressive film devoid of humor, but its narrative has some disturbing implications for global genocide and nutritional stunting that feels more suited for horror than animated comedy. But hey, there's a boss who is also a baby.
The Boss Baby follows the Templeton family and their seven-year-old kid, Tim, who's perfectly fine with being a single child and having all his parent's attention to himself. Unfortunately for Tim, his mother is having a second baby — which, despite what biology would tell you (and mind you, the mom has a baby bump in the opening scenes), babies come from some ethereal corporate monolith, and your child will arrive at your doorstep in a taxi. Enter the eponymous boss baby.
Tim quickly realizes there's something strange about his baby brother, who arrives in a full suit with a tiny briefcase to boot. His parents find this adorable. Tim soon discovers the truth, and be warned, it's horrifying. The boss baby is a special kind of baby — one that shouldn't have been sent down to live with a family, because he basically has the mind of an adult in a baby's body. He's the kind of baby that's suited for life at Baby Corp, where he'll work tirelessly to climb the corporate ladder and secure Baby Corp's treasured corner office. But wait, won't the babies grow up? Evidently not, as the corporate babies are given a special kind of milk formula that prevents them from aging.
There's a few implications here, one of which is just how old the boss baby is. It's unclear just how long he's been working at Baby Corp because he doesn't age. That he's voiced by Alec Baldwin gives the impression that this might be a very old baby, which adds a disturbing depth to his scenes with the Templeton parents, who give him baths and change his diapers.
So, why is the Baldwin-voiced baby with the Templeton's? Turns out, the parents both work at Puppy Co., and their boss is the primary antagonist for the film. Essentially, the villain's plan is to create a puppy that is so cute, people will no longer have babies in favor of adopting these puppies. This is another way of saying the bad guy's big plan is global genocide — the opposite of a family-friendly dilemma if there ever was one.
There's some personal stakes to this plan with the boss baby, because if he fails to stop the villain's big plan, he'll be cut off from the special formula that keeps him a baby. Once that happens, he'll become an actual infant, both mind and body — which, for him, is a tangible fear.
So, is there anything funny about The Boss Baby? The corporate humor is familiar and will occasionally incite a chuckle, but most of it is low-hanging fruit touching on human resources and corporate retreats. There's also one scene that suggests Tim at least took some sips of a Long Island iced tea while in Las Vegas — again, he's seven years old.
Of course, The Boss Baby also makes for an entertaining analogy to America's current president; the fact he's voiced by Baldwin is just icing on the cake. Alas, the comparisons are few and far between, save for a literal golden toilet in Baby Corp's corner office, which sounds very on-brand for Chateau Trump. The problem with the President Donald Trump comparisons is that the titular baby is hard-working and has the mind of an adult, while POTUS is a wrinkly, acutely orange man-child who spent part of last week pretending to be a truck driver playing with the big boy horn.
Given its eclectic, yet talented voice cast — joining Baldwin are Tobey Maguire, Steve Buscemi, Lisa Kudrow and Jimmy Kimmel, of all people — and strangely entertaining premise, with better execution The Boss Baby could've been another DreamWorks hit. Unfortunately, all it does is raise questions. Namely: Why would you make puppies your villain, how old is the boss baby and why the fuck did Oscar-winning composer Hans Zimmer score this movie?
Perhaps most of all: Is this why we can't have nice things?
The Boss Baby arrives in theaters March 31.
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