Good news, everyone: “The Boss Baby” isn’t as bad as the advertising makes it seem. Frankly it would be hard to be that bad. I was expecting 97 minutes of painful, lowbrow baby jokes mixed with tired corporate stereotypes left over from the 80’s. Some people thought the movie might be redeemed with political satire, since Alec Baldwin voices the Boss Baby and he has recently taken to playing America’s most iconic boss, but this movie was completed long before any Trump jokes could be worked in. No, the movie has to rely on other ideas to redeem itself, and a few of them actually succeed. A few.
Seven-year-old Tim Templeton (Miles Bakshi) lives an idyllic life with his parents (Lisa Kudrow and Jimmy Kimmel), but his world gets turned upside down with the arrival of his little brother, the otherwise-unnamed Boss Baby. Immediately something seems off about the newborn. Some of it is just baby stuff that Tim has to learn to accept, but some of it is strange even by baby standards. He arrives unaccompanied in a taxi, he keeps the family awake all night, he wears a suit (fortunately the necktie is just a fabrication, more on that later), he takes the parents’ attention away from Tim, and he’s a spy from a corporation that supplies all the babies in the world.
There’s a surprisingly intricate plot to this movie, but basically the Boss Baby is an adult with the body of a baby who was sent to Earth to stop evil puppy manufacturer Francis Francis (Steve Buscemi) from unleashing the world’s cutest puppy to the masses. Supposedly adults will love the puppy more than babies, and this will lead to the depletion of the human race. Boss Baby doesn’t have much luck recruiting other babies for the mission, but Tim is willing, provided Boss Baby goes back to BabyCorp afterwards and lets him have his parents all to himself again. Adventure, hijinks, bonding, and life lessons ensue.
Almost everything that happens in the movie is ridiculous, and the reason is that it’s a story being told by an adult version of Tim (Tobey Maguire). It’s established that Tim has an overactive imagination, hence the obvious embellishment. But the movie makes you think that it’s taking one approach to the narrative when it’s actually taking another, and I liked the first one more. The “real” version negates the whole story and it basically means that all the growing and learning that Tim does throughout the movie doesn’t count. But at least it means that the parents didn’t do frightfully irresponsible things like give the baby a necktie (I never could get past that detail).
I was really dreading the humor of “The Boss Baby,” and make no mistake, there are a lot of dumb gross-out gags. But about five minutes in, I laughed at something. And then again at ten minutes. And then maybe at a creative action sequence around the 15-20 minute mark. The movie’s strength is that it goes for so many types of gags and at such frequency that something is bound to work. If you can enjoy the baby humor, that’s great, but there’s also wordplay, pratfalls, deadpan, jokes for adults that will go over kids’ heads, and when all else fails, Elvis.
There’s a little something for everybody in “The Boss Baby,” but I have to emphasize “a little.” This movie probably isn’t worth seeking out if you have no interest in it. But if you feel obligated to see it, say, if your kids want to go, then go with them. There’s more to this movie than you think, though much of it is exactly what you expect.
Reach Bob Garver at firstname.lastname@example.org.