The Boss Baby

Year: 2017
Director: Tom McGrath 
Starring: Alec Baldwin, Jimmy Kimmel, Lisa Kudrow, Tobey Maguire, Steve Buscemi
Written by Andrew Garrison

Animation has always had the ability to inspire me. While all film can be art, animation has an edge in that department; to create life from the lifeless and allow the imagination to soar well beyond the realm of possibility. It can tell legendary stories and showcase the finest artistic style in the modern era.

My anticipation for ‘The Boss Baby’ was almost non-existent. I’ll admit the concept sounded quirky enough that I may enjoy it, then the trailers arrived and most of my interest sailed away and it was clear this wouldn’t even attempt to reach for that gold standard of animation.  The thoughts I had going into this film are unmentionable, though I did my best to keep an open mind.  

‘The Boss Baby’ has a very simple premise. A special baby wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase infiltrates an average family with a seven-year-old boy. This boy discovers that the baby is something more than what appears, and together they go on a mission to rescue baby-kind from the treachery of Puppyco, a global puppy corporation. 

Sure enough, this film has plenty of flaws. The most important aspect of any film is characters and their development, and the majority of characters in this film are one-note. They have little to no depth or emotional impact and are just as easily forgotten. Even the main character named Tim wasn’t that believable, and I don’t feel the voice actor did a great job with the character. 

Next up is the writing. No one is expecting an Oscar winner, but it is very simplistic and the film focuses on gimmicks which get old fast. The novelty of “Look! A baby is wearing a suit! How absurd!” is fun for a bit, but loses its shine quickly. It is very predictable and follows that cookie cutter story-line to precision. As expected, the humor was low brow, and I can understand being a younger kids movie that the jokes wouldn’t be as clever as other films, however the amount of bodily functions used as a crutch for a joke was insulting. The film had good humour and I will get to that, but the push for the lowest brand hurt the movie far more than it helped. Don’t play down for children, challenge them instead. 

Finally, the animation was often average to subpar. Considering this is a Dreamworks film, with ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ and ‘Kung Fu Panda’ in its corner, it was disappointing. Just because the target audience is younger, that doesn’t mean you can slack off on the details and still get full credit. Take some pride in your work, and it doesn’t seem everyone felt that way for this one.

All this being said, the movie was actually better than I expected, with some surprising positives. Alec Baldwin as the Boss Baby (Ted) was clearly the star of the movie as his character has the best lines and many of the best gags. He used everyday baby actions and accessories and made them humorous, and the character is the only one with some emotional depth to him.   

While I mentioned how the jokes went low too often, when the higher-level jokes actually landed, they were really funny. Complete with references that only adults would truly appreciate, from mimicking popular horror films and or video games, to jokes about the Titanic  and Indiana Jones. Some of these jokes were brilliant.  Clearly someone was having fun making this film and cared about its production. Because kids don’t see movies alone, they bring older audiences and that means you should have something for them as well, and this movie did.

Some may complain that the action scenes in this film weren’t realistic. I hear that and I understand what they are saying, but is an animated comedy about a baby wearing a suit trying to stop puppies. If you went into this film for realism, you chose poorly, and personally I found the action scenes to be entertaining and at times hilarious.

Whilst I didn’t like the animation throughout a lot of this film, there were moments. Scenes scattered throughout that some talented artist put together. It reminded me a little of ‘Samurai Jack’ and the ‘Madagascar’ films.  There must have been a small group of talented people working on this when, in an average film, their greatness shines bright.

Finally, while the film didn’t have emotional bite despite poor efforts to achieve it, there was a nice message that younger audiences could learn from or appreciate.

The Boss Baby’ is by no means the best animated film of this year. It runs the average line in animation quality and too often hits the low notes with the humour without much emotional pulse. However, on the whole the film is humorous with many awesome references. The action is colorful and entertaining, and whilst this isn’t Dreamworks at their finest, for the audience they are pandering to, it is serviceable. If you have young children and need a relatively harmless film to keep them occupied for 90 minutes, this will do the trick. As for older audiences, it isn’t ideal, but there will certainly be aspects you can appreciate.

Andrew’s rating: 6.3 out of 10

 

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