[Screen It]


(2017) (voices of Alec Baldwin, Miles Christopher Bakshi) (PG)

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Computer-Animated Comedy: A 7-year-old boy learns that his new baby brother is actually a ruthless corporate executive who's trying to even the cuteness playing field between babies and puppies.
Tim Templeton (voice of MILES CHRISTOPHER BAKSHI) is a 7-year-old boy who lives with his Mom (voice of LISA KUDROW) and Dad (voice of JIMMY KIMMEL) and revels in his overactive imagination and loves his parents' undivided attention. Thus, when a new infant arrives in the house, he's less than pleased to now be second fiddle to his baby brother who's lured their mom and dad's attention away from him.

Things become more complicated when Tim learn that his new sibling, Boss Baby (voice of ALEC BALDWIN), is actually a ruthless corporate executive (with an adult's mind in a baby's body) who's been sent by Baby Corp. to spy on the parents who work for Puppy Co. It seems that babies are now losing the war vs. puppies in terms of perceived cuteness, and Boss Baby has been tasked with infiltrating the enemy.

Along with other young children such as Staci (voice of VIVIANN YEE), some triplets (voice of ERIC BELL JR.) and Jim (who never speaks), he sets out to do just that, all while Tim tries to prove who and what this new family member truly is. As that plays out, they must contend with the nefarious Francis E. Francis (voice of STEVE BUSCEMI) and his hulking brother, Eugene (voice of CONRAD VERNON).

OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10
Aside from some primates that can communicate via sign language, we as humans really have no idea what's going through the minds of most animals. Sure, you might think you know by the way your dog or cat acts and reacts, but that's usually far more of a human projection onto the critter than a true understanding. And that could explain the preponderance of movies -- mostly animated but some live-action ones as well -- that feature talking animals, albeit usually in human personality forms.

Human babies sort of fall into that same "what are they saying" category, at least until they talk. And since most of them do eventually get to that point of understandable verbal communication, filmmakers don't seem as enamored with telling stories about babies who prematurely communicate.

Of course, there have been some exceptions, such as the "Look Who's Talking" movies where Bruce Willis provided the point of view, voice-over narration of the Mikey baby character (in the first two installments). "Baby Geniuses" also featured talking babies, but the less said about that film and its equally awful sequel, the better.

On the animated side there was the "Rugrats" film trilogy (stemming from the TV show), and now "The Boss Baby" joins that category, although it arrives as a computer-animated rather than hand-drawn offering. Directed by Tom McGrath who works from Michael McCullers' screenplay adaptation of Marla Frazee's 2010 picture book of the same name, the story revolves around the title character (voiced by Alec Baldwin) who was selected not long after birth to enter the corporate world, so to speak, rather than the traditional path of most babies.

Equipped with formula that keeps him looking young but with the mind of a ruthless, corporate adult, he's been sent to infiltrate a husband and wife (voiced by Lisa Kudrow and Jimmy Kimmel) who work for Puppy Co. The problem, it seems, is that babies are losing the cuteness war versus puppies, and the powers that be at Baby Corp. want that fixed.

So, our never named baby arrives as the new bundle of joy for the mom and dad who are exhausted by but overjoyed with the new addition. Not so happy is the former first fiddle child, Tim (voiced by Miles Christopher Bakshi), who once had his parents all to himself, but is now clearly in the second fiddle seat. With the parents not remotely aware of the new addition's true modus operandi, the Boss Baby tries to get to work, with Tim quickly figuring out what's happening but ending up unable to convince his parents.

The film initially suggests that all of this could possibly be the result of Tim's over-active imagination, what with us seeing all sorts of imagined scenarios of various perils and adventures he's been on (the early ones having nothing to do with the main plot and as initially narrated by his adult self). Thus, one could correctly surmise that all of these main developments may just be in the boy's head, which could have made for a fun, if not entirely novel time at the movies.

There are entertaining, cute, sometimes clever and occasionally hilarious moments scattered throughout the film's nearly 100 minute runtime (the initial ones playing off the notion of newborns ending up being the demanding boss of their exhausted and overworked parents, while other later ones move beyond that into things such as a spoof of a famous scene from "Raiders of the Lost Ark"). And the computer-generated graphics are quite visually appealing. But the main plot gist ends up being the weak component that drags everything else down. That's especially true in the third act when the action takes over and most of the jokes and fun fall by the wayside.

I seem to recall laughing at various moments while watching the film a few weeks ago at our press screening. But looking back in hindsight and reading through my notes, I'm not getting that same reaction as the overall offering simply doesn't sustain its positive qualities throughout. In the end, it's a marginally passable talking babies diversion, but nothing more. "The Boss Baby" rates as a 5 out of 10.

Reviewed March 18, 2017 / Posted March 31, 2017

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