THE BOSS BABY. Starring (by voice) Alec Baldwin, Miles Bakshi, Steve Buscemi, Jimmey Kimmel, Lisa Kudrow, and Tobey Maguire. Directed by Tom McGrath. Rated G (Very mild themes). 97 min.
This animated comedy is based loosely on the picture book of the same name written and illustrated in 2010 by Maria Frazee. It tells the story of a domineering "Boss Baby". Alec Baldwin voices Boss Baby Templeton, who talks a lot, dresses as a man, and barks or yells orders to his parents (Jimmy Kimmel, and Lisa Kudrow) and his 7-year old sibling, Tim Templeton (Miles Bakshi).
Tim's comfortable life with his adoring parents is thrown into turmoil by the unexpected arrival of a very unusual brother. Boss Baby behaves so badly that Tim becomes increasingly alienated from his baby brother and feels he is losing his parents' love. Boss Baby tells Tim there is a conspiracy he needs to know about, but Tim is prone to fantasising, which renders his thoughts implausible to others. He tries to tell his parents what Boss Baby is really like, but never manages to do so.
The film is narrated by Tobey Maguire as Tim's older self. Boss Baby tells Tim he is actually on a mission to foil a secret plot by the CEO of "Puppy Co.", Francis E. Francis (Steve Buscemi), to destabilise all love and affection in the world. Cute little puppies that "live forever" are going to be used to replace the affection parents have for their babies. Tim and Boss Baby eventually join forces to save the day, and by working together they restore what has been lost, and solve the emotions of love and affection being sabotaged by Puppy Co.'s sinister CEO.
The fantasy bizarreness of the film's plot is immediately obvious, when we see a newborn baby arriving at Tim's house in a stretch-limo taxi, dressed in an Amani suit, carrying a brief case, and with the voice of a 58-year old man. But what makes the movie especially interesting is that Alec Baldwin, who voices Boss Baby, is a well known comedian in the U.S.A, who satirises Donald Trump very effectively. He voices Boss Baby recognisably as Donald Trump. Trump was a nominee for the position of President of the U.S., and publicly visible as a vocal candidate for election at the time the film was made.
The movie tries to project its comedy-fantasy at two levels. At the first level, it explores a child's reaction to being faced with a younger, very difficult sibling. At this level, the film targets recognisable emotions such as rejection and jealousy that typically characterise sibling rivalry. The two brothers eventually discover love and affection for one another after embarking on a wild adventure in the Las Vegas Convention Centre, which is under the control of Puppy Co. for evil purposes. At this level, the film succeeds in exploring the theme of sibling rivalry in a clever way.
At a second, and more implicit, level, Boss Baby looks and behaves very much like the man Baldwin parodies so well on the US television show, "Saturday Night Live". Boss Baby is authoritative and domineering, has thinning blond hair, and purses his lips as Donald Trump did, and does. The film basically takes a family-friendly fantasy plot that threatens the world, and gives it a totally different kind of satirical bite. Baldwin, working under the direction of Tom McGrath, gives this second level contemporary relevance in the way he delivers the character of Boss Baby.
Technically, the baby-look of Boss Baby contrasts effectively with the adult talk coming from Boss Baby. The film makes novel computer use of paper cut-outs and uses a wide variety of fantasy scenes that come together a little haphazardly to fill the screen with colour and action. All the time, Boss Baby's behaviour seems to belong to someone we think we might know. The quality of animation doesn't reach the level that DreamWorks Animation has achieved in the past with films like "Shrek 2" (2004), and the film entertains mostly for reasons that Maria Frazee could not have had in mind when she published her picture book back in 2010. However, the unusual mix of levels, and the film's current satirical relevance, make for enjoyable viewing.
Peter W. Sheehan is Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting
Twentieth Century Fox. Released March 23, 2017