Review: “The Boss Baby”

Posted by Michael Parsons on March 29, 2017 in / No Comments

 

You’d think you couldn’t go wrong with Alec Baldwin voicing an animated infant, but somewhere along the way Dreamworks Animation’s “The Boss Baby” becomes pretty familiar. The antithesis of last year’s “Storks”, in which a young boy wishes for a younger brother, this fart-fueled flick (not a criticism — the flatulence is undeniably funny) features a similar kid who wishes to remain an only child. Like it or not, little Tim (Miles Christopher Bakshi) is getting a sibling, who shows up strutting down the front walk, attaché in hand.

At least this is how Timmy envisions him; the boy’s wild imagination is established from the very opening in a series of adventures that melt away to reveal the reality behind which he’s creating them. It’s a clever construct, one that Baldwin slides comfortably into, and an efficient way to introduce Tim’s perception of his new little brother, a diminutive corporate raider who uses all manner of grown-up movie clichés (and one of Baldwin’s own classic lines) as he spearheads a  hostile takeover of  mommy and daddy’s (Lisa Kudrow, Jimmy Kimmel) limited love supply.

However fantastic Baldwin is — and believe me, nobody could have done a better job than he does here — this “Secret Life of Pets” with babies  begins to sputter when every a skosh of sentiment is added to the mix. Adapted from the Marla Frazee book by Michael McCullers (“Baby Mama”, upcoming “Shrek 5”), “Boss Baby” goes from funny metaphor to so-so fantasy/adventure in which the siblings team up against a common enemy: the puppy.

As if losing his stake as the majority shareholder of his parents’ affection wasn’t enough, cute little canines threaten to take a substantial portion of the pie. There’s a funny butt-sniffing scene. Enough said.

Alternately clever and “been there, done that”, “The Boss Baby” is consistently elevated by Baldwin’s naturally suave yet sardonic tone, while McCullers’ script fights gravity for the second half.

However, it is never dull, and my five-year-old definitely sympathized with little Timmy. It’s a shame that Kudrow and Kimmel don’t add much to the mix, but again there’s nobody that could have done much better by the material. Visually, it’s fine, if not a bit fragmented, a solid enough addition to the Dreamworks Animation canon for lack of a better description. There are enough laugh-out-loud moments to foresee this making its way into the carousel of multi-view favorites when it lands on VOD.  Additional voices by Steve Buscemi and Tobey Maguire

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M. Parsons 2017

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Michael Parsons

Father. Realtor®. Movie nut. After pestering my parents for their commentary on “Star Wars” when I was four years old, my mind went into a creative frenzy. I’d imagined something entirely different than the actual film, which I didn’t end up seeing until its 1979 re-release at the Uptown Theater in Washington, DC. This was my formal introduction to the cinema.

During that long wait, which felt like an eternity to a child, my mind was being molded by more corrosive stuff like “Trilogy of Terror” and “Rosemary’s Baby”, most of which I’d conned various babysitters into letting me watch on television ( I convinced one poor lady that “Jaws” was actually “Moby Dick”).

The folks were pretty strict in that regard, so the less appropriate it was for a kid to watch, the more I was fascinated by it. Horror staples like “Halloween” and “Friday the 13th”, as well as lesser-known low-budget fare like “Madman”, “Sleepaway Camp” and “Pieces” all ended up sneaking their way into the VHS on a regular basis.

Since then, I’ve developed an obsession with the entire film industry. Even though I watch and review a wide breadth of films these days, my appreciation for the campy, poorly lit micro-budgeters still lends itself to my evolving perspective on movies just as much as the summer blockbusters and Oscar contenders. As I recall my trips to the movie theater, I realize that this stuff is about much more than just a fleeting piece of entertainment.

A couple years ago, I was finally given the opportunity to lend my opinion on films to a publication, The Rogers Revue, with a subsequent run at Reel Film News. It's been both a privilege and a gateway to what we’re doing now. Most of my experience has come from interviewing independent filmmakers, who consistently promote innovation. The filmmaking process is grueling and relatively unforgiving.

Fellow film enthusiast Eddie Pasa and I have created DC Filmdom as a medium for film reviews, discussion, and (inevitably) some debate. And so, the creative frenzy continues.

(Michael is a member of the Washington, DC Area Film Critics Association).

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