The Boss Baby: Family Business, 2021.
Directed by Tom McGrath.
Featuring the voice talents of Alec Baldwin, James Marsden, Jeff Goldblum, Eva Longoria, Lisa Kudrow, Jimmy Kimmel, Amy Sedaris, Ariana Greenblatt, and James McGrath.
The Templeton brothers have become adults and drifted away from each other, but a new boss baby with a cutting-edge approach is about to bring them together again – and inspire a new family business.
Before diving into The Boss Baby: Family Business, it must be mentioned that the screening platform for watching the movie (there were no theatrical screenings here in Chicago) had some issues, mainly a never-ending stream of lag that was running at maybe 15 frames per second. Fortunately, these are not necessarily complex movies and, if anything, the visuals still came away as one of the only high spots here (there are Christmas pageants, imaginative song and dance visions on top of musical notes, a bright color palette that pops, and impressive detail when it comes to both character models and terrain such as snow).
The Boss Baby: Family Business will successfully perform its duty of entertaining children, but it leaves something to be desired narratively, routinely flirting with embracing more thoughtful and occasionally heavier themes (like a Pixar movie) only to fall back on too much ridiculousness like, say, an overblown city car chase that boasts a couple of explosions and a massive snowball causing further destruction. For as often as an intriguing dynamic or scene arises, there’s one that’s either random or unfunny. To be fair, the entire simplistic premise of some babies behaving and talking like fully grown workaholic adults at a corporation called BabyCorp is inherently silly and ripe for lowbrow humor, with both of these movies thankfully manage to avoid.
This time around, the story follows Tim Templeton (only as an adult with the voice of James Marsden replacing Topher Grace) started the sentence his seven-year-old daughter Tabitha (voiced by Ariana Greenblatt) drifting away. Her total focus has shifted towards school work partly so she can one day be successful like her wealthy hedge fund uncle Ted (the titular boss baby in the first movie, still voiced by Alec Baldwin), and also because shady things are going on at the new school run by one Dr. Armstrong (Jeff Goldblum, surprisingly not leaving much of an effect here).
Tabitha’s younger infant sister Tina (Amy Sedaris, who doesn’t strike as any better, worse, or even different from Alec Baldwin’s interpretation other than gender and a more relaxed head)) also happens to be a boss baby and aware that scheming is afoot. As such, she sparks together a plan to not only investigate the facility but to bring Ted back around (he rarely actually visits his brother or nieces, showering them with gifts for birthdays and holidays making up for his absence) to reconnect with the family. Since they can’t get along as adults, I suppose it’s only fitting that Tina has a potion to revert both of them to their childhood selves (their character models from the first movie) so they can argue amongst themselves like babies while trying to save the day.
Again, I won’t take away that The Boss Baby: Family Business has a few decent ideas going for it, as the siblings are forced to work together and relearn what made them once so important to each other. The issue is more that if you push Ted’s entire character to the side and focus on the amusing dynamic of Tim undercover and inside the same classes as daughter Tabitha, witnessing everything from her prodigal intelligence to the bullying she endures and her desires to one day make her father proud, there’s a much more emotionally conscious movie. There are also a couple of beautiful songs that are easily the best thing here. Some of those exchanges range from hilariously awkward to charming and compelling, which is more than I can say for irreverent nonsense like baby ninjas. Nevertheless, the film disappointingly chooses to prioritize the elements that are essentially a rehash of the first movie.
All around, the last 30 minutes or so (it’s also worth mentioning that this movie almost runs two hours, which is unquestionably too long for this story) are slightly winning as it drives home family bonds (there’s also some cameos from Jimmy Kimmel and Lisa Kudrow, now the grandparents). Dr. Armstrong’s evil plan is also reasonably dark (with one throwaway character acknowledging so) in that it addresses the way older generations are contributing to the downfall of the planet. Of course, the tone doesn’t stay that way for long, but it’s another noteworthy moment that shows returning director Tom McGrath and writer Michael McCullers (once again adapting picture books from Marla Frazee) has more on the mind than distracting children. It may not get there entirely, but there are far more pointless things parents can show their children. The Boss Baby: Family Business tries, which counts given the state of American animation.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at [email protected]
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