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
M. Parsons 2017