The Boss Baby
dir Tom McGrath
scr Michael McCullers
prd Ramsey Ann Naito
voices Alec Baldwin, Tobey Maguire, Miles Christopher Bakshi, Steve Buscemi, Lisa Kudrow, Jimmy Kimmel, ViviAnn Yee, Eric Bell Jr, Tom McGrath
release US 31.Mar.17, UK 7.Apr.17
17/US DreamWorks 1h37
The Boss Baby
He ain't heavy: Tim and the baby

baldwin maguire buscemi
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Boss Baby Witty and hyperactive, this madcap animated action-comedy is relentlessly cute and sentimental, with a rapid-fire series of movie references, gross-out gags and pun-filled dialog. The increasingly crazed plot never quite utilises the inventive premise, but it's amusing to watch, anchored by a perfectly timed vocal performance from Alec Baldwin in the title role.

Imaginative 7-year-old Tim (Maguire as narrator, Bakshi as the character) has enjoyed the uninterrupted attention of his arty-playful parents (Kudrow and Kimmel). So when a baby brother (Baldwin) arrives, Tim sees him as a tiny businessman taking over the house. And there's a bigger conspiracy afoot, as the infant works for Baby Corp, and has been sent on a secret mission to spy on Puppyco, where Tim's parents work. And their boss Francis (Buscemi) is plotting to unleash a new breed of puppy that will forever steal the affections of parents from their children.

No, this makes no sense unless you remember that it's all happening in the vivid daydreams of a 7-year-old for whom the arrival of a younger sibling feels like a corporate takeover. Director McGrath and screenwriter McCullers aren't terribly interested in exploring this idea in any detail, instead launching into a series of riotous action set-pieces. The animation is wildly kinetic and entertaining, with some wonderfully offbeat fantasy sequences and plenty of visual gags, even if the characters themselves look plasticky.

Baldwin anchors the movie as the hilariously bossy baby. His verbal dexterity is in full force, capturing the infantile nature of bullying. And he expertly punches every joke and nails each moment of corny emotion. Bakshi and Maguire give Tim a nice inner life, although not too much personality. Kimmel and Kudrow are underused, but manage to pepper their scenes with superbly askance gags. And Buscemi arrives in the final act to spice things up as the inexplicably sneering villain with a preposterous master plan.

There are some nicely resonant moments along the way, mainly because babies and puppies are just so relentlessly adorable that it's impossible to resist them. And the film's message about the bond between siblings has some intriguing edges to it, because it touches on the push and pull between rivalry and camaraderie. In other words, while the filmmakers never quite make the most of a great idea, they've created a colourful, silly romp that will keep grown-ups smiling at vintage references and kids laughing at jokes about bare bottoms.

cert 15 themes, vulgarity, violence 26.Mar.17

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© 2017 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall