Sometimes the idea for an animated is so out there that it actually works in an absurdist way. And in the world we’re living in right now, the idea of a talking baby in a suit voiced by Alec Baldwin feels just about right. From animation veteran Tom McGrath (the three MADAGASCAR films and MEGAMIND) comes THE BOSS BABY, which concerns a secret corporate world, run and operated by talking infants. Baby Corp. is tasked with protecting the process of assigning newborns to families on earth. It’s not quite made clear if the corporation is supposed to be in heaven, another dimension, or a secret underground bunker in New Mexico. The growing problem Baby Corp. is having is that the love and affection being given to babies is under threat from puppies, who are gaining affection percentage points from adults.
Baldwin’s character, Boss Baby (of course), is part of the management team in charge of keeping the love in babies’ favor and he assumes the identity of a regular infant to a new family in order to call together his ground troops and try to win this adorable war. To do this, Boss Baby must contend with suspicious parents (Lisa Kudrow and Jimmy Kimmel). He also has to work around constant observation from Tim, a jealous, seven-year-old brother who is fairly certain that he hears his new infant brother communicating and conspiring with other babies.
It’s difficult not to hear traces of both Baldwin’s character from “30 Rock” and his SNL impersonation of President Trump in Baby Boss’s voice, especially when the kid leaves his diapers and onesies behind and dons a sharp business suit and tie. Basically, THE BOSS BABY doesn’t work with Baldwin steering the ship, and even when his character is front and center, things don’t always come together. There’s nothing special about the animation style, and maybe half the jokes land with any regularity. But I did find myself laughing or at least grinning more than half the time, and the children at the screening I attended seemed consistently captivated by this heartfelt and utterly bizarre adventure, which finds Baby Boss and Tim teaming up to do recon work at a puppy convention where the Forever Puppy, a new type of dog that always stays puppy size, is set to be launched by another corporate mastermind, voiced by Steve Buscemi (also quite funny).
To make THE BOSS BABY’s story just a little odder, it’s narrated by Tim as an adult (voiced by Tobey Maguire), which means we’re not even sure how much of his telling is accurate since he wasn’t around for many of the events. It’s also possible I’m overthinking this aspect of the movie. I’ll give the film a passing grade for its originality and overall weirdness, plus hearing Baldwin’s voice coming out of something so adorable has got to be worth something, right?
I’m not attempting to pass of THE BOSS BABY as any great achievement in animation or filmmaking, but it got me to chuckle a few times, director McGrath keeps things moving at a lively pace, and as far as family-friendly entertainment, it does the trick. Keeping your expectations modest might result in you actually enjoying this one. Sometimes, that’s enough.