I get a sense that Dreamworks is really slumming it with their current line-up of animated films. They seem to be going down a similar route to what Pixar was doing before Inside Out came out, churning out any rubbish that looked like it would make a quick buck of kids. The thing is, though, I don’t want Dreamworks to decline because they have made some brilliant animated films, in fact some of my favourites, The Prince of Egypt, the first two Shrek films and, of course the Kung Fu Panda movies, which are some of my all time favourite animated films.
The Boss Baby was exposed to me at first when I went to see Trolls, as it was one of the trailers that was played before it and I thoroughly did not want to see it, based on that first trailer. This looked like one of the dumbest ideas ever and I was going “right, I am done, Dreamworks obviously doesn’t care any more”. But, of course, I have a job to see and I pretty much review every animated film that come out, since I am big believer that animation is a brilliant medium to get ideas across. So, work with what you have got.
The film itself is directed by Tom McGrath, who directed Mega Mind as well as all three of the Madagascar films, though he did not return to direct the Penguins of Madagascar spin off. He is an ok director in my opinion, but he’s not the greatest director. The screenplay, however, has been written by a former Saturday Night Live writer, which give me a bit more hope, Michael McCullers, who also wrote the first Austin Powers film, The Spy Who Shagged Me as well as providing additional material to the recent Mr Peabody and Sherman film, which were both ok films. He hasn’t got an amazing track record, however, he also wrote the screenplay for the woefully bad, live action Thunderbirds film as well as Gold Member, the rather underwhelming Austin Powers sequel, and he is also writing the screenplays for next year’s Hotel Transylvania 3, which already feels incredibly necessary, despite the fact that I did enjoy both of the Hotel Transylvania films and Shrek, the second one may have been weaker, but I thought it was an ok film and got way too much of a bash from the critics and the incredibly unnecessary and clearly only in it for the money film Shrek 5!! Seriously, until I started doing research for this review, I didn’t know Shrek 5 was even on the cards, I know this is a money maker for Dreamworks, but please let it die!!! Back to the Boss Baby, this may be a woeful concept, but I think a Saturday Night Live writer and the director of the Madagascar films might get something out of this, even though I am not a huge fan of the Madagascar films and actually think are one of the prime examples of why celebrities and animated films don’t necessarily go together. But, let’s see how The Boss Baby turns out.
Ok, stay with me, because The Boss Baby’s plot sounds ridiculous! Young Tim ( voiced by Miles Christopher Bakshi) is enjoying life with his mum and dad, (voiced by Jimmy Kimmel and Lisa Kudrow). He has a problem, however, one day a taxi arrives, delivering his new baby brother The Boss Baby, (voiced by Alec Baldwin). As he starts taking over his life, he is horrified to discover that the baby can actually talk and is here on a mission. He is a member of Baby Co and he has to discover what the infamous Puppy Co is up to and how they are stealing the love away from babies and giving it to puppies and must stop the CEO Frances Frances, (voiced by Steve Buscemi). Did you get all that, no of course not, because it’s ridiculous. I wasn’t minding this plot so much until towards the end. The film actually starts out with the idea that Tim has a very overactive imagination and I imagined (no pun intended) that this whole thing was a child’s perspective of what it would be like to have a younger sibling come into their life. This is something I haven’t experienced myself, being the younger brother. Maybe I could have related to Tim more if I had been in that situation. However, the problem is that the film doesn’t go down that route. I am not going to go into too much detail, but with trying to spoil as little as possible, it’s not all in his head. This entire thing is played 100% serious, or as serious as a Dreamworks Animated film aimed at kids can get. But that’s the point, this whole thing is played as if this is the actual reality of this world and it makes no sense!! I am sorry but by the end the whole thing doesn’t tie up together. I am not saying that this concept couldn’t work, I think it probably could, the problem is that they don’t explain it well enough, so as a result, the whole thing kind of falls down. It’s almost like a game on Jenga, it’s all going pretty well, then somebody moves a piece and the whole thing is going to fall down. Granted, I kind of like the concept as a whole. Despite the fact that it is a stupid concept, if they had taken this idea a little less seriously, it could have led to some pretty funny jokes. The downside is, because they do take it so seriously the jokes are all groan inducing more than funny.
I am not saying that every kids film has to be Inside Out, that’s ridiculously impractical and inflates too much expectation. But I just expect, that if you are going to deliver a plot like this, you can’t leave a lot of these plot lines hanging. For example, they never really establish how everything in this world works. There are a lot of things we are meant to accept without asking for an explanation, and these moments are way too numerous off the top of my head. On the plus side, there are some good points to this film. I actually kind of like the relationship between The Boss Baby and Tim, if anything, their interactions are probably the best part of the whole movie and that’s what stops me from hating or disliking this movie, because that’s the main focus, it’s just about two brother coming together and bonding with one another.
There are a couple of problems that I have with the film. The first being, the villain, no offence to Steve Buscemi, he is doing what he needs to do, but Frances Frances is such a bland and forgettable villain, they try to give him a decent back story and I will admit, it’s actually a decent twist that I didn’t see coming, but his presence really adds to the over ridiculous nature of this film and the fact that everything that is happening is 100% real, means that the whole thing feels ridiculous. Granted, while I may have said that, there was a moment at the very end of the film where I felt this film had a saving grace, without going into too much detail because I don’t want to spoil the film for anyone who wants to go and see it and it just about rescued the entire movie for me. The problem is, that it is completely ruined two seconds later, and then roll the credits!!! That’s all I can really say about the film. This was my biggest fear going into the Boss Baby, that the whole thing wouldn’t go ridiculous enough and that really is the problem. If it wasn’t for the rather likeable main characters, I think this whole thing would just sink for me. Fortunately, it doesn’t entirely sink, there are genuinely good points to the film, but man, was this a bland film. The plot itself is really a “been there, done that”, in fact I actually recognised a lot of scenes that felt very similar to a lot of cartoons that I watched when I was a kid. The plot is incredibly recycled, it has certain “Men In Black” qualities to it, again I can’t go into too much detail about what I mean. The other factor that promotes this film is the fact that there is very little pop culture references and there is no current pop music, which means, at least the film won’t date itself appallingly in that regard, like many other kids films now do.
“what the hell am I watching, and could you please explain that to me again because I don’t get that point and how does that work”.
As for the actors. There is a pretty decent selection here. I did enjoy Alec Baldwin in the role, he really commits himself to this performance and sells it well, I think people forget what a good comedic actor her can be. Steve Buscemi is once again trying his best, but his part is badly written, so he is not allowed to deliver his parts very well. The casting of Jimmy Kimmel and Lisa Kudrow really feels like they were added in purely for the celebrity factor and to add their names to a poster, they don’t provide much extra to the film and in fact I felt they were rather underwhelming in these performances, though that might be because they are not given that much to actually do. I felt Miles Christopher Bakshi is very good as the young version of Tim, since he gives a decent performance in the role and has a good chemistry with Alec Baldwin. You notice I said ‘young Tim’, the film is actually narrated by an older version of Tim, who is voiced by Tobey McGuire, however, he only shows up at the beginning and briefly a bit into the film, then vanishes until the very end. You would think a former Spiderman would get more to do than just this!!
Ok, let’s talk about the animation. I gave Trolls a lot of ‘crap’ for its animation because I felt it was too bright and colourful and the character designs were too obnoxious. I will say that at least this one tries a bit, but my goodness, the characters look ugly. Seriously this is some of the most butt ugly animation I have seen in a major motion picture in a long time. The character designs for me are just weird. The uncanny valley is definitely an effect. The eyes seem a bit too big for their heads and they all look like they have very weird proportions. I know animated characters don’t have to all look incredibly realistic, but they don’t have to look like this!! The environments feel really plastic. The whole thing kind of looks like a Play Doh set!! As a result, it makes objects look like they don’t have much weight to them. Granted, I have seen a lot of Spanish Animated films that should have gone straight to DVD as well as other examples where the film looked well worse than this one and at least it looks like it should belong in a major motion picture, but that doesn’t change the fact that I find it rather off putting. Maybe other people won’t have the same problem I do, but this wasn’t a pleasant environment to be in, it got much better when we went to Tim’s imagination and there was a lot more of the computer animation having to be mixed with the hand drawn animation.
By the time I got to see The Boss Baby, it wasn’t playing in 3D, so I only saw the 2D version, but my advice would be, if you can see it in 3D then do so because there are a lot of moments that are clearly intended for the 3D conversion and those moments feel rather gimmicky when the screen is entirely flat.
The soundtrack is another thing to note. I already mentioned there aren’t a lot of current pop songs in it, but I never really cared for the over use of the song Blackbird and if I am honest, I didn’t really like the cover of “What the World Needs is Love” in the closing credits.
The Boss Baby is a film that both has a ridiculous concept and takes itself way too seriously, which is its biggest issue. This could have been a very interesting idea, but the film doesn’t play it that way and as a way it fails instantly. There are some good points to it, like the relationship between the two brothers and a couple of jokes did make me laugh, but other than that, it’s a real bore of a movie. It’s just there. I found the character designs and the animation were not that great. The film is just a bit of a “ehh” movie. I can’t muster up enough dislike to hate it , but I don’t muster enough enjoyment to feel anything about it. It’s certainly not one of Dreamworks best, but I did like it better than Trolls because at least this film didn’t feel like an insult on my senses every second!! I am certain there are going to be people who are going to like The Boss Baby and it’s not incredibly harmful to take your kids to see it, but I would actually hold out on your money because there will be better films coming out later this year. But considering that the next Pixar film is going to be Cars 3 and the next Dreamworks film after this is an adaptation of Captain Underpants, so I wouldn’t hold out much hope if I were year. Maybe by the end of the year I may be saying that this one was half decent!!
My advise, at this point stick on a DVD and hope that Lego Batman comes out soon.
Well these are my thoughts on The Boss Baby. No mini reviews as I was pressed for time as I am attending a Wedding.
Join me next time, where I will be giving my thoughts on Ridley Scott’s Alien Covenant.
With all that being said thanks for reading I hope you enjoyed reading as much as I enjoyed writing and for crying out loud I’m now begging for DreamWorks to make Kung Fu Panda 4
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