Bossy baby strikes balance between humour, sentiment
* * *
THE BOSS BABY Directed by Tom McGrath. With the voices of Alec Baldwin and Miles Bakshi
REVIEW: Pat Padua
Who needs a movie about a tyrannical infant – or an infantile tyrant – anyway? You might be surprised to learn that you do.
Although its advertising campaign seems to promise little more than an animated comedy about a bratty baby in a business suit, The Boss Baby (adapted from the 2010 book by author and illustrator Marla Frazee) is a sweet adventure tale about sibling rivalry that ultimately becomes a moving tribute to family and brotherhood.
Seven-year-old Tim (voice of Miles Christopher Bakshi) is an only child, basking in the undivided attention of his parents.
But this perfect life is upset by the arrival of a new baby brother (Alec Baldwin), who appears not in the usual fashion, but has been sent to Earth via a heavenly sorting procedure that divides newborns into loving family types and “management” babies, raised in cubicle farms and emerging into the world wearing three-piece suits and carrying briefcases.
From Tim’s (admittedly unreliable) perspective, his unnamed middle-manager sibling uses play dates to conduct meetings, fielding business calls on a Fisher Price toy telephone.
Boss Baby demands complete attention from his parents, leaving Tim feeling neglected. This transforms The Boss Baby from a single-joke movie to a story with a deeper, more universal resonance. After all, who among us – even an only child – hasn’t felt the pang of abandonment, if not sibling rivalry, at some point?
Tim and his little brother are bitter rivals until Boss Baby reveals a secret mission to stop what poses the direst threat to what the film posits is babies’ already tenuous hold on parental love: puppies.
Although the film’s character design is, for the most part, undistinguished, its vivid backgrounds are informed by both pop-up books and quirky mid-century design, and the script drops pop-culture references that range from Teletubbies to Apocalypse Now.
Yet what really drives the film is the central relationship, a fraternal dynamic that, despite being based on a flight of fancy, is more convincing than many live-action family comedies manage to be. While The Boss Baby’s corporate adventures are clearly the product of a child’s overactive imagination, the film’s lessons – about how both Tim and Boss Baby must learn to come to terms with each other – are valid.
Director Tom McGrath strikes a fine balance between humour and sentiment, never losing sight of the tender reality that fuels childhood fantasy. Inventive and heartwarming, The Boss Baby is a lot more grown up than it looks.