Little bros battle to see who’s ‘Boss’
From its LennonMcCartney theme song “Blackbird” to its flagrant Evel Knievel allusion, DreamWorks’ computeranimated entry “The Boss Baby,” loosely based on a 2010 children’s book by Marla Frazee, is a weird, not exactly raucous throwback.
Directed by Tom McGrath (“Madagascar” series), “The Boss Baby” begins in indie-film style with a voice-over set in the childhood of 7-year-old coprotagonist Timothy Leslie Templeton (Miles Christopher Bakshi), whose suburban life is idyllic. His young parents read him three books and perform “Blackbird” live for him every night. That is until the arrival of a brother known only as “the baby” or “Boss Baby” (voice of Alec Baldwin, which was weird since I kept thinking the Boss Baby was Donald Trump).
The new baby, who wears a suit, tie and a Rolex and carries a briefcase (?), is in fact a manager at an interdimensional (I’m guessing), Matrix-like corporation called Baby Co., and he insists on getting all the attention from the “parents” Ted (Jimmy Kimmel) and Janice (Lisa Kudrow).
I expected him to turn to older brother Timothy and say that he was “fired.” When Timothy tries to reveal the baby’s true identity to their parents, all comic heck supposedly breaks loose.
The Boss Baby calls in a team of ninja fighting infants, who are too young to know how to read and too short to open doors, but are capable of all sorts of amazing physics-defying athletics while riding toys. The antics were only occasionally amusing to me.
The jokes, perhaps a proof of the theories of Sigmund Freud, are strictly anal stage, fixated on gags involving buttocks, excrement, vomit and flatulence. Like the studio’s similarly fixated “Shrek” films, the visual style of “The Boss Baby” is humanoid with oversized eyes.
Timothy has an animated alarm clock with the shape and voice of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Gandalf (voice of James McGrath, who also voices Elvis impersonators). “Wizzie,” as Tim calls the clock, keeps intoning, “You shall not pass.” Hilarious?
Naturally for a film about a baby, the finale is set in Las Vegas, the boob’s Versailles, where Francis E. Francis (Steve Buscemi), the CEO of Puppy Co., the company for which Ted and Janice work, hatches a fiendish plot and reveals his true identity. The overall plot is not so much fiendish as dorky and random.
In addition to a score by Hans Zimmer and Steve Mazzaro, “The Baby Boss” features Fred Astaire singing an anatomically altered version of Irving Berlin’s “Cheek to Cheek,” a shrieking rendition of the Hal David and Burt Bacharach standard “What the World Needs Now is Love” and a defunkified remake of Len Ron Hanks and Zane Grey’s “(Every Time I Turn Around) Back in Love Again.”
The Boss Baby’s fondness for working his frustrations out by repeatedly clenching a Mexican bandito rubber squeeze toy is not racist at all, I’m sure. In one scene Tim and his little boss brother suck on their binkies and go on what can only be called a hallucinatory journey to Baby Co. land. Is a mushroom cloud with the face of an adorable baby funny? Ask me in four years.
(“The Boss Baby” contains rude and sometimes disgusting humor.)