DreamWorks Proves Again That Witty Writing Can Make Anything Great
Even at first glance, The Boss Baby makes clear the fact that it could only have been the result of DreamWorks. It’s zany, it’s foolish but by the end it leaves its viewer feeling immensely satisfied. It’s always said mastery of any art is the ability to make it look easy to others. Taking a picture book about a kid brother showing up in a suit with a briefcase possessing the secret ability to speak and command other children and making that seem plausible, enjoyable and appealing to children and adults alike is no small task! Yet DreamWorks made it look easy.
Based loosely on a short picture book of the same name from 2010, The Boss Baby is the 2017 97-minue long CG animated feature built upon a budget of $125-million. It managed to turn a nice profit at the domestic box office ($175m) but really shone globally; $528 million gross.
The story is narrated by an adult Tim Templeton (Toby Maguire) and centers on his memories of being 7 and introduced to his younger brother (Alec Baldwin) AKA The Boss Baby himself. Often joked that the source material provided director Tom McGrath, perhaps best known for his work of the Penguins of Madagascar, enough inspiration for an animated commercial at best, somehow he and writer Michael McCullers manage to weave a rapid fire comedic tale of sibling rivalry at its most imaginative.
Early on it is explained that young Tim always had a wonderfully overactive imagination, leaving the viewer to ultimately decide for himself whether or not the events upon which the film is centered ever really took place. As such some of the film’s most triumphant moments are those that transition between the perspective of the kids themselves and those of the partially-observing adults. My own favorite involved a big budget Hollywood chase sequence, complete with explosions and car crashes aplenty, as seen from the parents through the window as typical kids playing in the yard.
Critics didn’t seem overly generous in their appraisal of this one, citing abundant potty humor and silliness as its primary faults; which is surprising. Ordinarily you’d expect a film about a cutthroat business elite toddler on a top secret mission from “Babycorp” to be very scientifically accurate.
Perhaps the film’s greatest strength comes in the form of its pacing; which, like most DreamWorks productions, is razor sharp. Every single scene is instrumental in advancing the plot but quite richly layered with humor. Kids will love the visual gags and aforementioned potty humor while adults will snicker at the more nuanced moments like when a visibly pregnant mom asks young Tim if he’d like a baby brother and he replies, “No thanks, I’m enough.”
A good part of the appeal of the entire dynamic can be attributed to a wonderfully cast Miles Bakshi as young Tim Templeton. While you realize the catalyst of his whole tale is his jealousy for his baby brother, it’s hard not to root for him thanks to the multitude of manipulations inflicted upon him by the Boss.
All in all, it’s hard not to appreciate the fact that McGrath and company were able to deliver a witty, comedic full length romp out of essentially nothing. Great casting, concise plotting, some humor for all ages and demographics and a story that brilliantly leaves the viewer wondering whether or not any of it happened in the first place are the reasons to ignore the critics and give it a look.
Come for the silliness, stay for the nuances. If you went into this one expecting anything more, perhaps finding fault with the film should be the lesser of your concerns.