Too bad the children’s film that follows the Pixar act.
The Walt Disney Co. animation studio has long been a standard bearer that can be hard to match. But even knowing the inevitable stall to come, “The Boss Baby: family business” is still a terribly steep slide of the splendid, shimmering “Luca.”
The 2017 Dreamworks sequel (check the ratings) Oscar-nominated “The Boss Baby,” once again pushes a simple, funny but hard-to-craft image – a baby in a costume – to wacky extremes. It was pretty good vanity for the original Marla Frazee Children’s book; toddlers can indeed be tyrants. But every movie has hyperactively swaddled that thin premise with a frenzied, over-traced, quirky cartoon blitz.
Director Tom McGrath (the “Madagascar” films) returns for “The Boss Baby: Family Business” (theatrically and streaming on Peacock), and is rapidly advancing into adulthood. Older brother Tim (James Marsden, successor to Tobey Maguire) became a stay-at-home dad married to powerful Carol (Eva Longoria), with their science-obsessed and high-performing daughter Tabitha (Ariana Greenblatt) and little Tina ( Amy Sedaris).
Boss Baby Ted (Alec Baldwin, adding costumes including Donald Trump, Jack Donaghy and Blake in “Glengarry Glen Ross” to his wardrobe) has naturally turned into a hedge fund CEO. The brothers moved away from each other, all the while keeping Ted’s secret that he was an agent for Baby Corp., a conglomerate that makes a baby formula that gives adults intelligence. The film opens with Tim bemoaning that childhood only comes once, but “Boss Baby” is a truism totem that adults and children aren’t really that different, and sometimes are even interchangeable.
Tina also turns out to be a Baby Corp. agent, and she summons Tim and Ted into the conglomerate on a new assignment – shrinking back to their age in the last movie to go undercover and investigate the principal, Dr. Armstrong (Jeff Goldblum, phantasmagorically clownish) from Tabitha’s school. Dr. Armstrong is preparing a baby revolution that is utterly absurd but not without its merits. The school pageant, which Tabitha is eagerly preparing for, puts climate change squarely at the feet of an older generation. In a little reminiscent of the equally colorful but much better “The Mitchells against the Machines”, Dr Armstrong’s plot tackles parents’ addiction to smartphones. Young people, of course, have good reason to believe that they could do better with the world.
The plot is so crazy, with running gags thrown along the way, that “Family Business” feels designed to make giddy parents argue for their little movie companions’ plot pointers. It’s a manic movie in a familiarly corporate way that gives kids a computer-generated candy race. The business imperatives of the film sometimes shine through as a leaky layer.
But I will say, “Boss Baby” grows a bit on you. There is a dazzling animated scene shared between Tim and his child-sized daughter Tabitha about creativity and being yourself set to “If You Wanna Sing Sing”. if you are still tempted to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
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