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edge staff writer


Cookies are for closers – ‘The Boss Baby’

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Animated film more fun than you might expect

DreamWorks Animation is never going to be Disney or Pixar.

They’ve had plenty of commercial success, building multiple lucrative animated franchises – the “Shrek,” “Madagascar,” “Kung Fu Panda” and “How to Train Your Dragon” films have grossed nearly $8 billion worldwide across 14 films – but they’ve never quite reached the level of sophistication that breeds consistent critical praise.

And that’s OK. They’re still VERY good at what they do.

Their latest endeavor is “The Boss Baby” – based on the children’s book of the same name by Marla Frazee. It’s a fairly simple, yet surprisingly engaging look at what happens when a little boy gets a new baby brother … one who is not at all what he could ever have expected.

Timothy Templeton (Miles Bakshi, “Shrek Forever After”) is seven years old. He’s a wildly imaginative kid living an idyllic suburban life with his mom (Lisa Kudrow, “The Girl on the Train”) and dad (late night host Jimmy Kimmel) and revels in the devotion his parents have towards him.

But when his new baby brother arrives, something seems … off.

This baby – who shows up in a taxi wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase – isn’t like any baby Tim has ever met. And this baby is soaking up all of the attention that once belonged to Tim; he decides that he needs to figure out just what is going on with this baby.

It turns out that said baby is actually Boss Baby (Alec Baldwin, “Rules Don’t Apply”), a middle-management figure sent from the corporate headquarters of BabyCorp (you know, the massive company in charge of baby distribution) on a mission. See, it turns out that Tim’s parents work for PuppyCorp, a company whose CEO Francis Francis (Steve Buscemi, TV’s “Horace and Pete”) has big plans that have the BabyCorp higher-ups very nervous.

Tim’s got to decide – can he expose the true nature of this Boss Baby? Must he join forces with the interloper to protect his parents? Whose side should he be on?

And then we learn a lot of lessons about togetherness and teamwork and family and whatnot, along with some Baldwin riffs and a fair amount of potty humor.

Honestly, I enjoyed “The Boss Baby” a lot more than I thought it would. It’s a fairly one-note premise – baby acts and speaks like an adult – but director Tom McGrath and screenwriter Michael McCullers have some fun with it. McGrath is a DreamWorks Animation vet – the “Madagascar” movies have been his beat – so he gets it. Going broad is a studio hallmark, but McGrath manages to do so without going overboard. It’s a simple story, but McCullers shapes it to the film’s advantage. Visually, the film does a nice job in varying its aesthetic; there are moments of stylistic contrast that really enrich the overall experience.

All that being said, this is Alec Baldwin’s movie. He plays the part of Boss Baby precisely like you think he does, as an infant-shaped amalgam of Jack Donaghy and Blake from “Glengarry Glen Ross.” He’s 100 percent the right choice for this kind of project, his charismatic smugness working surprisingly well coming from an animated baby (I’m not proud of it, but I giggled every time Boss Baby dropped his go-to string of cursing – “Fart poop doody.”).

(Yes, the humor skews juvenile, but it’s a movie about a talking baby – would you expect anything else? It’s maybe less concerned with the grown-ups in the audience than some animated films these days, but there are a few solid tidbits aimed squarely at the adults in the crowd.)

The rest of the cast is fine. Bakshi is solid as Tim; considering his youth, he holds up well even next to a ham like Baldwin. Kimmel and Kudrow do their respective duties – heh, duties – as Dad and Mom, while Buscemi steals a couple of scenes as the master-planning Francis.

Again – DreamWorks isn’t Pixar. “The Boss Baby” is a simple, silly story with simple themes. There’s no real argument for high-mindedness here, but really – so what? There’s nothing wrong with keeping it basic – particularly when the underlying concepts are sincere. This isn’t a great movie, but it’s a decent one. It’s thin and clichéd, but it’s sweet and fun.

Sometimes, a kid just wants an adventure with some jokes about farts, and when they do, then this movie is for them.

[3.5 out of 5]


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