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“The Boss Baby” (2017) Hollywood Movie Review-BoomsPk


 “That's my special song! My parents wrote it just for me.”
“Your parents are Lennon and McCartney?”

“The Boss Baby” (2017):

Ummmm . . . . . . so, it’s not great, but it’s not bad either. It’s kind of bizarre, but also kind of clever. I didn’t love it, but part of me couldn’t help but like it, I guess.

What’s your game, DreamWorks?

***

“The Boss Baby” (2017) Hollywood Movie Review-BoomsPk


I’m not joking with you, especially the second part about it being one of the more bizarrely forward animated films I’ve seen in years. There are a few scenes alone that could genuinely terrify both adults and children alike, and a couple instances of vague violence that my inner-adult instantly questioned “Did they seriously just do that?”, only for the logical side to take over shortly afterwards by realizing that was actually realistically accurate. The more “The Boss Baby” advances, the more obvious it becomes that maybe it’s not-so-geared towards kids after all with it being one large metaphor and its darkly satirical social commentary that’s so on-the-nose it is borderline spooky. Yeah, I could easily drop “Boss Baby” into the same category as older films like “All Dogs Go to Heaven”, where it may look child-like on the surface, but after watching it, one begins to see just how wrong that assumption turns out to be.

In that respect, I almost couldn’t help but admire the film overall for bringing back the old-fashioned, darkly concealed undertones from the animation features of the 70s, 80s, and 90s before things got a little fluffier in the 2000s. It’s just too bad that “Boss Baby” barely has a funny bone in its body; sticking to the “It’s a baby doing cute baby things” line of comedy and never shows much desire to deviate away from that, and when it does, the jokes are stale and welcome the occasional eye-roll. It’s not to say there was a complete absence of laughter from me, they were just few and far between. However, while I would rarely overlook something like that as I prefer comedy with my animation, the narrative does introduce enough cute innocence along the way to help balance the movie’s sharper edges. Like I said, it’s far from greatness, but “The Boss Baby” could very well be the best film from DreamWorks animation in a long time that is not a part of its major keystone franchises, even if that isn’t saying much by comparison.

Timothy Templeton (voiced as a kid by Miles Bakshi, and narrated by Tobey Maguire) is a seven-year-old boy and only child living the dream – he gets to go on fantastic imaginative adventures, and he has the full attention of his mother and father, Janice (Lisa Kudrow) and Ted (Jimmy Kimmel). When asked how he would feel about having a baby brother or sister, Timothy immediately shuns the idea in favor of wanting to keep things the way they are and being the center of attention. Soon after, a baby arrives at the Templeton’s front door with a suit and briefcase, and Timothy is informed that the newcomer is indeed his baby brother. Timothy, as one could imagine, is not receptive of the baby’s arrival because all the attention he was getting from his parents is now gone, and even less so when he starts observing bizarre behavior, such as the baby (Alec Baldwin), speaking and behaving like a full-grown adult.

For a change, the first few trailers for “The Boss Baby” were not forthcoming about some of the film’s bigger plot points. Obviously, we were given enough information to know that the baby was different, but not clearly as to why. Towards the second half of the film, it is brought to light that babies are not created in the traditional way of thinking, but rather in a factory in the sky called Baby Corp., and when the titular character, eventually referred to as Theodore Templeton, fails a tickle test, he is held at Baby Corp. as a management figure rather than being sent to Earth and given a family for which to be a part. Once Theodore explains to Timothy that he is here simply to spy on Baby Corp’s biggest competition, Puppy Co., because the world seems to be giving more love to puppies than babies and they are about to unveil a brand new breed of puppy, the two decide to team up so Theodore can keep his job at Baby Corp. and Timothy can go back to being the single child again like he always wanted.

This is where the film takes the aforementioned darker turn with such themes as kidnapping, abandonment, money solves all problems, and attempted murder; in fact, tonnes strikingly similar to last year’s “Trolls”.

Gosh, DreamWorks, I know I teased you about being too childish, but I never imagined you’d take it so personally.

All kidding aside, what I was impressed with moreover with “Boss Baby” was its overarching theme about imagination and make believe. Naturally there’s the playout over the Second Act of Timothy teaching Theodore how to be a kid, and Theodore showing Timothy what it means to be a big brother and maybe it’s not so bad after all, but it’s the journey that served as the means to that end that I found to be especially poignant. I don’t want to spoil too much, though the film does give a few clues at the beginning and end that perhaps the entire thing is one big imaginary tale in the mind of a seven-year-old going through and trying to make sense of some major life changes. Best of my recollection, DreamWorks Animation hasn’t made anything of that considerable heft probably since “How to Train Your Dragon 2” over three years ago, which in itself is kind of depressing seeing how many movies they have produced since then.

I know I’ve complained about this already, but I do wish that screenwriter Michael McCullers had been able to weave in more laughs, as that was one of the main missing pieces that keep “Boss Baby” from being fairly outstanding. Alec Baldwin was a great choice to voice Theodore with his charismatically dry wit, yet the material here was frankly below his talents as a comedian, and unfortunately made Theodore one of the least memorable characters in the entire film. Granted, despite the title, this is really Timothy’s story, and kudos to Bakshi on an impressive performance, though that still doesn’t quite make up for the fact that Baldwin feels underutilized.

On a technical level, “Boss Baby” looks pretty great. It’s becoming clear to me that DreamWorks has no desire to stray away from the more cartoon-ish, softer-edge animation unless they really feel they must, and given the material, I can say it fits, even if it has me longing for richer detailed features like “Dragon” or “Kung Fu Panda”. Nevertheless, the imagination segments were gorgeously done and rivaled some of the same “Wow”-factor pop and color as “Madagascar 3” to help make them stand out from the main narrative. I have given DW some flack in the past for being lazy and trying to make money from old enterprises to save from having to be inventive, but despite its flaws, I can see this film had more drive and care put into it. What a relief it is to say that.

Now I can’t decide if I liked “Boss Baby” or if it irritated me for being a few fundamentals short of awesome. I guess beggars can’t be choosers, and to see something resembling the studio giving a crap again is something to be celebrated – not a rave party, but like cake, coffee, and a pat on a back – you get the idea. There wasn’t quite enough going to make me need to see it again, but supposedly there is a sequel planned in the distant future (this is DW, so nothing is guaranteed), and if that does prove to be the case, and the same talent comes back on, call me interested. I recommend giving it a look.

“The Boss Baby”: 7.5/10

Home Media: The Blu-Ray combo pack is still a little high at new cost, but once the sales come, it gets knocked down pretty generously.
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