Kernel Rating (out of 5): (3.5 out of 5)
MPAA Rating: PG Length: 97 minutes
Age Appropriate For: 8+. This animated film about a mysterious baby who earns the mistrust of his older brother includes an onslaught of nude baby butts, with many bathroom humor opportunities involving flatulence, vomit, and diapers; a subplot about sibling rivalry that involves children fighting with each other, including chase scenes, explosions, and other hijinks; an enforcer character who rarely speaks and is presented as foreboding and threatening, especially when he’s dressed as a female nanny; and one sexually themed joke about where babies come from.
Alec Baldwin is the magic that holds ‘The Boss Baby’ together. This smartly written family film lightly takes on the commercialism of babies and pets while delivering a variety of witty gags that sound charmingly smug coming from Baldwin’s mouth.
By Roxana Hadadi
It’s practically impossible to picture anyone else but Alec Baldwin as the anchor for “The Boss Baby.” He makes what could have been a weird-but-forgettable children’s film a riotously enjoyable one that captures that uneasy balance of appealing to parents and kids alike.
Baldwin’s particular mix of self-satisfaction and deadpan contempt is perfect for his role as the titular suit-wearing, sushi-loving corporate baby, and the cognitive dissonance inspired by hearing his voice coming out of a baby’s mouth is a delight that will renew your interest in the film every single time the character says anything at all. Although the movie’s plot sometimes feels derivative of other recently animated fare like “Storks” or “Trolls,” it’s Baldwin’s grounding presence that helps the narrative move along briskly and successfully.
The film begins with 7-year-old Tim (voiced by Miles Christopher Bakshi), whose parents (voiced by Jimmy Kimmel of “Pitch Perfect 2” and Lisa Kudrow of “Neighbors”) are always willing to participate in his imaginative adventures, whether he’s searching for a gorilla or swimming with a shark. Every time they play together, Tim thinks of something new, and he sees their trio as a perfect, self-contained unit.
But things change practically immediately when someone new enters their home—a baby that Tim is convinced showed up to their house in a taxi, wearing a business suit, carrying a briefcase, and chatting on a mobile phone. His concerns about the suddenness and strangeness of the baby’s arrival fall on deaf ears, as his parents become consumed with caring for his new younger brother and have less and less time for him. Gone is their playtime together; their stories at bedtime; and their hugs and songs.
Feeling shoved aside and worried that his parents may no longer love him, Tim decides to confront the baby, and is shocked by what the infant admits: that his name is Boss Baby (voiced by Baldwin, of “Concussion”) and that he’s in their household on a mission from Baby Corp., the world’s provider of newborns. His mission is to learn what Tim’s parents, both in marketing, are working on for Baby Corp. rival Puppy Co. If he is successful in stealing that corporate intel and returning it to his own bosses at Baby Corp., he’ll be rewarded with a promotion and a corner office—but if he fails, he’ll be forced to live with Tim and his family forever.
Fear of the latter option is what forces Tim and the Boss Baby to cooperate, and so they decide to work together to ensure that the Boss Baby conducts his business espionage, returns to Baby Corp., and leaves Tim alone with his parents as the sole recipient of their love. But the mission grows more complicated when they learn that Puppy Co. is aware of the existence of Baby Corp. and is more than willing to compete against them—even if that means putting Tim, the Boss Baby, and Tim’s parents in danger.
Aside from Baldwin providing a strong voice performance, “The Boss Baby” also does a good job taking expected subplots into unexpected places. The sibling rivalry between Tim and the Boss Baby nicely incorporates a mockery of corporate hierarchy and the private sector’s hierarchical structure, and the film does a good job of bouncing back and forth between how Tim interprets situations vs. how the Boss Baby does. A chase scene that we see break out during a baby playdate is presented with violence and mayhem, until we learn that was just Tim’s exaggerated understanding of things—in reality, it was a mundane crawl through a suburban backyard.
How willing the film is to undercut its own moments of insane action maintains the focus on the characters, and Tim and the Boss Baby will each appeal to audience members: the former for his curiosity and relatable worry for his parents, and the latter for his ridiculous self-importance and condescension. When Baldwin sneers “Cookies are for closers” to another Baby Corp. employee, you’ll be reminded, for the millionth time, why he’s so perfect for this part. It’s through the strength of his voice acting that you’ll forgive some of the film’s more unfortunate choices, like an offhand “chicks dig babies” stereotype and a male villain who is implied to be extra scary when he dresses like a woman. Those little hiccups don’t derail “The Boss Baby,” but that’s because Baldwin does more than enough to make this film a surprisingly entertaining choice.
Interested in a previously released film? Read our reviews of films already showing in your local theater.