Review: Tom McGrath’s “The Boss Baby” is a clever, familiar mess

When I was a kid, I had grand adventures on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, battling the Klingons.  Sometimes, I would become general manager Ben, setting up a ‘front desk’ in my parent’s basement pretending to check people in to my ‘hotel’, or even being the debonair James Bond.  At the same time, I had an insatiable desire to rule the world.  At least that’s what my inside voice told me.  Of course, when I open my mouth, something completely different than what I thought comes out.  It’s never a good combination.  Just like Tom McGrath’s animated comedy, The Boss Baby.

Narrated by an adult Tim Templeton (Tobey Maguire), he is as carefree as any seven-year-old only-child (Miles Bakshi) ever has been; something his parents (Jimmy Kimmel, Lisa Kudrow) reinforce in him.  From swashbuckling adventures on the open sea to fantastic moon landings, young Tim’s mind can take him to any place or any time.  When his parents announce that they’re about to have another child, his overactive imagination goes into overdrive trying to win back their affection from the Boss Baby (Alec Baldwin).

McGrath’s Baby gets its inspiration from many sources.  If you’ve seen the teaser trailer, you immediately recall oft repeated bits from James Foley’s Glengarry Glen Ross.  The featured sequence in the trailer was not greatly expanded on in the actual movie; combined with the lead-in sequence, the huddled meeting between Baldwin’s Boss Baby and other neighborhood kids and the ensuing chase is a hoot.

Themes of family, friendship, trust, love and sharing are all inherent in Michael McCullers’s script.  The threadbare plot fumbled because it is strung together by a series of vignettes leading to an in effective climax.  This is coupled with an ineffective villain, voiced by Steve Buscemi.  The problem wasn’t with Buscemi’s voice acting, but a character with a familiar exposition that has been seen many times before.

All of this made for a rather frustrating experience.  Some of the sequences will seem familiar; others were filled with the requisite poop jokes.  After all, we’re talking about a baby.  Like Amy Heckerling’s Look Who’s Talking, there should be something smart and funny about a talking baby.  Boss should have been even funnier with talking baby who craves sushi and a macchiato while carrying around a briefcase.  It just doesn’t pan out.

What does pan out is the stunning animation; something that DWA is extremely proficient at.  And, that’s truly the strength of this film.  McGrath understands his framework, allowing the characters and the voice talent to shine.  Hans Zimmer and Steve Mazzaro deliver the goods with the score.

If anything, Tom McGrath’s familiar The Boss Baby reinforces the fact that I am indeed not nuts.  I’m crazy for listening to my inner Alec Baldwin.

Opening this Friday in theatres, The Boss Baby is reluctantly Recommended.

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