July 27, 2017

Blu-Ray Review: THE BOSS BABY

Starring the voices of Alec Baldwin, Miles Bakshi, Steve Buscemi, Jimmy Kimmel, Lisa Kudrow, Conrad Vernon, James McGrath, Tobey Maguire. Directed by Tom McGrath. (2017, 97 min).

The Boss Baby is not quite the movie it was promoted as...thank god.

The ad campaign had me writing it off as the most pandering and creatively bankrupt family film of the year, an assembly line product to be lapped up by undemanding children and their beleaguered parents ("A talking baby in a business suit! Throw in some poop jokes and kids'll eat it up!!!").

And if, for some reason, I'd have been coursed by one of my children to see this in a theater, but happened to arrive ten minutes late, my worst suspicions would have been confirmed as I rage-watched for the remaining 90 minutes, incredulous that anyone over the age of ten couldn't see The Boss Baby for what it was: a creatively bankrupt wallet drainer.

"Do you know how much saturated fat you're eating?"
But exposition is a funny, fickle thing. Too much and it can suck you right out of a movie experience; too little and you miss the point entirely. In The Boss Baby, those first ten minutes of exposition are the difference between a cynical cash grab and a supremely charming, clever and ultimately heartwarming story that's relatable to anyone ever faced with welcoming a new sibling to the family.

Watching it, I was often reminded of Calvin and Hobbes. In my opinion, it's the greatest comic strip of all time, though I didn't think so at first. My wife loved it, but because I was unaware of the context, the few strips I initially bothered to read seemed stupid. Once I understood that Hobbes was Calvin's stuffed tiger and their adventures were products of the boy's imagination, every strip was suddenly  magical...and hilarious.

There's one at every office party.
While The Boss Baby doesn't display as much creative genius as Bill Watterson's classic comic, the same idea is at work here (albeit with more prerequisite bodily function gags). Despite an amusing Alex Baldwin in the titular role, The Boss Baby is actually the story of Tim, a 7-year-old single child with an active imagination who's forced to come to terms with the arrival of his newborn brother. He sees the baby as a threat with a nefarious agenda: to take away the love his parents have always reserved exclusively for him. However, the baby brother - viewed by Tim as a ruthless executive in a business suit - is on a mission. He informs Tim that the company their parents work for, Puppy Co., is about reveal a new dog breed so cute that no love will be left for the babies of the world. The two agree to set aside their animosity in order to put a stop to it.

The actual plot is secondary to how Tim views the world and everybody in it. We've all known kids like this. Hell, a lot of us were kids like this. Because everything that happens is a product of his active imagination, The Boss Baby is often hilarious and occasionally touching. The whimsical nature of the film is charming enough that even the numerous pop culture references (arguably not the products of a 7-year-old mind) are forgivable.

But only if seen from the very beginning. I don't recall the last time a movie's overall creative success depended almost entirely on the first few scenes. However, those scenes are what makes The Boss Baby a memorable & funny family experience, not just another conceptually pandering product. To my complete surprise, this is a film worth owning and revisiting.

"THE BOSS BABY AND TIM'S TREASURE HUNT THROUGH TIME" - Touted as an 'new mini adventure,' this isn't exactly a new cartoon short. It's a newly narrated story mostly consisting footage from the original film.
FEATURETTES (Most of these are amusing promotional shorts presented as infomercials or instructional videos, and not about the film itself):
"The Forever Puppy Infomercial"
"Babies vs. Puppies: Who Do YOU Love?"
"The Boss Baby's Undercover Team"
"BabyCorp and You"
"Cookies Are for Closers: Inside BabyCorp"
"The Great Sibling Competition"

No comments: