What is the perfect size of a family? Three, four or more? That is concept explored in The Boss Baby, a colourful, funny and often endearing animated feature from DreamWorks, the studio that brought us Shrek, Kung Fu Panda and Madagascar. It has been inspired by the best-selling picture book by Marla Frazee.
The story is told from the perspective of a wildly imaginative seven-year-old named Tim, whose life is thrown upside down by the arrival – in a taxi mind you – of his baby brother. Not unusual you might say. Certainly so, when you consider he is wearing a suit and carrying a brief case. Sibling rivalry is alive and well as the undivided attention Tim had from his parents is suddenly under severe strain, as bub demands all their attention. Tim is mighty suspicious of the unusual goings on … and he has every reason to be because we soon learn the new addition is not really a tot, but a spy on a secret undercover mission. It turns out that the boss baby works for a company called Baby Corps and is sent to get intel. Call it market research or industrial espionage; regardless, he has infiltrated Tim’s family under less than wholesome circumstances. The quicker Tim can rid the household of this diminutive troublemaker the better and yet there is more to the film’s plot than meets the eye. Before it is over the bitter rivals will become pint-sized partners as nefarious plotting is underway involving an epic battle between puppies and babies. An outrageous adventure follows.
The Boss Baby features the vocal talent of Alec Baldwin as the title character, Jimmy Kimmel and Lisa Kudrow as the childrens’ parents, Tobey Maguire as the movie’s narrator and Miles Bakshi as Tim. Steve Buscemi’s voice is that of the villain of the piece.
Director Tom McGrath was the youngest of two brothers in his family and regarded as the boss baby. He was well aware of the upheaval his arrival caused. He envisaged the story as a love letter to his older bro. “The writer, Michael McCullers, and I were immediately struck by the central metaphor of the book – which is what happens when a baby arrives and takes over your house?” says McGrath. “My brother and I were very close growing up, but also fought like all brothers do. But as you grow, you also become each other’s best friends. For me, the movie is a loving homage to him.”
There is a lot to like about the storytelling and the twists and turns involved. It is cute, but also devious and the subject is rife for humour, which the narrative milks at every opportunity. One shouldn’t overlook the certain level of whimsy and nostalgia about The Boss Baby. The colour palette only serves to add to the appeal.
Ultimately, a film like this is about connecting with an audience and it does that well through the personalities of the central characters. I dare say it will have appeal to children, their parents and grandparents alike as many of the best animated features do. Rated G, The Boss Baby scores a 7 out of 10.
Director: Tom McGrath
Cast: (Voices of) Lisa Kudrow, Alec Baldwin, Steve Buscemi
Release Date: 23 March 2017
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David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television