Film: THE BOSS BABY

#1 movie, weekends of 3/31-4/2/17 and 4/7-4/9/17

Gross: $50,198,902, $26,363,488

What it is: A computer-animated children’s film about a boy, Tim, whose new baby brother turns out to be a corporate executive voiced by Alec Baldwin.

A lot of high-concept movies would benefit from following Toy Story‘s example. That movie never explains why the toys are alive, why they care about making children happy, why their aliveness needs to be a secret, etc. It just starts with the premise that toys are actually alive and correctly trusts that the audience will go along with it.

The Boss Baby, based on a children’s picture book, starts with a similarly charming conceit: Playing off of the idea that newborn babies tend to take over the lives of the families they’re born into, it introduces an infant that’s somehow also a take-charge business executive, and takes the joke a step further by having the baby voiced by Alec Baldwin, who’s known for having played domineering corporate types in Glengarry Glen Ross and 30 Rock. But it isn’t content to just set up that premise and then let wacky hijinks ensue, because apparently some DreamWorks executive wouldn’t stop asking, “But why is the baby a boss?”

So the insanely convoluted explanation is that babies are actually created and distributed by a company called Baby Corp, which not only makes babies but also for some reason is run by babies. Baby Corp seems to exist on another planet or in another dimension or something (Tim and the Boss Baby at one point teleport there for an exposition sequence), and they use Men in Black-style brainwashing techniques to make sure people keep believing in the myth of biological procreation instead of learning the truth of Baby Corp’s existence. The reason for this secrecy is supposedly that no one would have babies if they knew that they came from a corporation, I guess because that’s a Kafkaesque nightmare, although it honestly seems preferable to pushing a cantaloupe-sized object out of your vagina.

In any case, the Boss Baby was sent by Baby Corp to spy on their competition, Puppy Corp, and this is where things get really weird: Puppy Corp is the company that makes puppies, but it’s not run by puppies; it’s just a regular, human-run company that Tim’s parents work for. So in this world, both babies and puppies are manufactured consumer goods (though I’m not sure how Baby Corp makes any money, since no one’s actually buying babies, at least not consciously), but the baby industry is an almost supernatural secret while the puppy industry is a run-of-the-mill concern that everyone knows about.

There are other details that make the movie even more needlessly weird, like the mentally challenged Tor Johnson type who serves as the main villain’s second-in-command, but if I tried to discern the logic in every thread of The Boss Baby‘s plot this review would never end. That’s the problem with trying to make an inherently fanciful premise make real-world sense: Every question you answer just raises more questions. It’s actually pretty impressive how light-footed and amusing the movie manages to be given how much it ties itself into knots trying to explain its own crazy mythology.

The image of an infantile corporate exec obviously calls to mind our current president, especially since Baldwin is now known for playing Trump on Saturday Night Live, but this parallel presumably wasn’t intentional and I didn’t notice any Trump references in the film. What’s really striking is how competent Baldwin’s Boss Baby seems compared to the lunatic Twitter fiend in the White House; perhaps Trump’s just run out of the special baby formula that keeps Boss Babies from forgetting where they came from and regressing into genuine infancy and, eventually, adulthood. Yeah, that’s part of the plot, too. It’s a really weird movie.

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