MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Photo: Dreamworks Animation
Directed by Tom McGrath. Animated Feature. Rated PG
For those of us who love animated films, we are living in a cartoon “Tale of Two Cities”; this is indeed “the best of times and the worst of times”. On one hand, we can bask in the visual splendor of such smart films as Kubo and the Two Strings and Zootopia and even tolerate the happy escapism of a movie such as Trolls. On the other hand, there is the onslaught of manufactured dreck like The Boss Baby.
There are plenty of worse family films than this one, but The Boss Baby commits the cardinal sin of taking a popular and beloved children’s book and stretching it way out of proportion in order to create a full-length feature. In the storybook, a new baby comes into a family’s life and takes over the household with its demands and needs. As any new parent knows, a newborn infant is the boss of the house. This is something that perplexes any child who was used to being the center of attention before little baby brother arrived on the scene. In the book, the baby shows up dressed in a business suit, with spreadsheets in hand, but the visuals are meant to be merely symbolic of the evolving parent/child relationship.
I can imagine the wheels turning as the Hollywood suits began to pitch this film version of the book: What if the baby was actually a businessman in a suit? What if Alec Baldwin (who was funny as network executive Jack Donaghy in the TV show 30 Rock) voiced the baby just like his old television character? Wouldn’t that be something?
When a baby isn’t really a baby, the screenwriters have to work overtime to create an alternative universe in which babies drop out of the sky created by a company called Baby Corp. Some babies are simply babies, but the ones with potential are declared “management” and come delivered with advanced I.Q.s and business acumen. Why do we need smart babies? Because there is only so much love to go around and cute puppies are beginning to get more affection than infants. The Baby Boss, along with other infant sidekicks, is given the assignment to infiltrate Puppy Co. and defeat the competition.
I won’t bore you with any more of the plot, which actually becomes more tedious after the film passes the 1-hour mark. The kids in the audience at my showing were getting bored, too.
The Boss Baby joins the pantheon of decent children’s books turned into dreadful movies (Where the Wild Things Are, The Cat in the Hat). Do yourself a favor and stroll over to your local library to read the book. It will take about five minutes and you will recover ninety minutes that you would otherwise have squandered watching the film version.
One halo: A visually interesting but muddled and confusing adaptation of a popular picture book.
One pitchfork: A few jokes involving flatulence and vomiting, always good for laughs from young children.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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