'Boss Baby's' good heart gets lost in an over-complicated plot

Posted March 31

“THE BOSS BABY” — 2½ stars — Voices of Alec Baldwin, Steve Buscemi, Jimmy Kimmel, Lisa Kudrow, Tobey Maguire; PG (some mild rude humor); in general release

There’s a cute idea at the heart of “The Boss Baby,” about a little boy giving up his only child status and learning to love his new attention-grabbing sibling.

The little boy is Tim, voiced in child form by Miles Bakshi while Tobey Maguire handles narration duties. Tim is an All-American youngster with a vivid imagination. He re-imagines every daily task as some kind of dramatic adventure, and naturally he is the central hero of his own universe.

When his father (Jimmy Kimmel) and mother (Lisa Kudrow) — who is already visibly pregnant — ask Tim if he would like a baby brother, he quickly brushes off the idea as if his parents were offering him a third serving of ice cream. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Then the baby arrives, and while we see the traditional gushing and fawning over a newborn, Tim sees a coming invasion, led by a fast-talking businessman in a baby body and a tiny suit, voiced by Alec Baldwin.

From here, we see “Boss Baby” through Tim’s eyes, interpreted through his elaborate fantasy. The Boss Baby was sent from baby corporate headquarters on a top-secret mission. Turns out Mom and Dad, who work in marketing for a corporate pet company called Puppy Co., are connected to an impending product release that will forever tip the scales of public affection towards puppies and away from babies.

Tim and the Boss Baby strike a deal: if Tim helps the Boss Baby thwart the Puppy Co. release, and preserve the cuteness title for babies, Boss Baby will return to his management position, and Tim will get to be an only child again. But if the release happens, Tim is stuck with his new brother.

So “Boss Baby” jumps headfirst into an elaborate plot, with all of its requisite twists and turns. At this point it’s best to stay focused on the big picture, because “Boss Baby” tends to get lost in Tim’s fantasy. You could argue that a narrative hatched from the mind of a child might not be airtight, but it’s unlikely a child would make this kind of a mess. The two “Lego Movies” have done a great job of giving their stories a sense of childlike direction, and “Boss Baby” could have used some of that simplicity.

The notion of Baldwin voicing a baby won’t be unique to anyone familiar with Hollywood’s tradition of such movies — see Bruce Willis as a newborn in the “Look Who’s Talking” movies, or even last year’s “Nine Lives,” with Kevin Spacey voicing a cat. If the dialogue would have done more to evoke Baldwin’s comic uber-capitalist Jack Donaghy character from “30 Rock,” “Boss Baby” might have wound up with some more energy, but things feel a little too routine here.

That being said, “Boss Baby” does have some nice moments, and it manages to draw some laughs. Things eventually work around to that accepting-a-sibling big picture, which is nice. But “Boss Baby” is a step down from the better animation efforts out there, so parents will want to consider whether a full family trip to the movies is in the budget for this one.

“The Boss Baby” is rated PG for some mild rude humor; running time: 97 minutes.

Joshua Terry is a freelance writer and photographer who also teaches English composition for Weber State University. You can also find him on <a href='' target='_blank'>YouTube</a>.


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