If there is one word to describe Dreamworks Animation’s new film, The Boss Baby, it would be confusing. The element of imagination that is introduced through the main character mixed with the hard to understand world that is built in this movie mixed together leave the audience trying to figure out exactly what is happening as they watch the film. The last couple of movies that Dreamworks has released have not been well received and from the first trailer of The Boss Baby, it seemed to me like this was going to be another forgettable movie from the studio. The Boss Baby is not a step in the right direction for them.
The story begins with a flashback from the main character Tim (voiced by Miles Bakshi) and is used to showcase just how vivid his imagination is which is used as the main plot point throughout the film. The flashbacks and imagination sequences are also animated differently than the rest of the movie, which adds an interesting layer but at the same time adds to the confusion that builds up during this film. We also get introduced to the narrator, which appears to be an older Tim looking back at his childhood, placing the movie somewhere in the 1970’s. I assume this based on some of the technology that is used by the characters. The narrator is voiced by Tobey Maguire and I would say he does a fine job giving life to the character during the retelling of his story.
Tim is very comfortable with his life but that all changes when his parents bring home a new baby brother who happens to be The Boss Baby. The new baby is sporting a very cute business suit, along with the brain of an adult and is voiced by seasoned cinema businessman (Alec Baldwin). This is where the confusion of the world this movie is based on comes in. They set up a world where babies are made. Spoiler Alert! Half of them are sent to families as regular babies and the other half are turned into corporate babies, which are given adult knowledge and drink a formula to keep them young. The Boss Baby is one of these corporate babies and is sent to Tim’s family to stop a rival corporation called Puppy Co., which threatens to create puppies that are cuter than babies, threatening the extinction of babies. This leaves you wondering why are women even pregnant and who is behind this weird baby corporation.
The other confusing aspect is the element of Tim’s imagination. They set up this plot point to have you believing that his imagination is so vivid but it gets to the point where you cannot tell what is in his imagination versus what is reality. One big element can be seen in the trailer during the big car chase scene in the backyard where we get intense action and even explosions but when we go to the parents’ point of view it just looks like kids innocently playing. This is fine and understandable but then the parents go outside and there are still remnants of the explosion and action scattered around their yard which leaves you wondering if it really happened or not. This also adds to the theory of whether the new baby is even able to talk, or is wearing a suit at all, or is this all in Tim’s head. This lead me to believe there was a certain twist coming that would make sense of everything but the ending was so ambiguous that it just left me with even more questions.
This movie is also very generic using the overused theme of a character having a great situation until another character comes in to disrupt it forming an instant rivalry that leads to a friendship. Movies like Rugrats, Toy Story and the recent film, The Secret Life of Pets all use this same formula. This formula has been successful because it is very relatable forcing movies using this theme to do something unique to stand out from the crowd. This movie uses the imagination angle which I mentioned earlier so the element that is meant to make The Boss Baby unique is something that hurt the film.
This movie is animated well, though not on par with animated juggernauts like Moana or How to Train Your Dragon. The story is confusing and not really explained well and seems like another step back for Dreamworks who have recently released box office duds like Home, Trolls, and The Wild Life. Hopefully, Despicable Me 3 can bring Dreamworks back to the high standards of animation films we were accustomed to receiving from the studio because, unfortunately, The Boss Baby did not get the job done.
Reel Talk gives The Boss Baby 1 Reel.