FULL DISCLOSURE (1): I arrived uncharacteristically late to my scheduled press screening of “The Boss Baby.” This had the notable effect of improving the film by virtue of its abbreviated runtime, raising my opinion from “festering, putrid malignancy” to “unbearably bad.” This is an improvement that can only be fully understood by enduring either “The Boss Baby” (whether in its entirety, or in mercifully shortened form), or the removal of kidney stones via invasive surgery. I have experienced both, and I don’t make such comparisons lightly.
FULL DISCLOSURE (2): “The Boss Baby” wasn’t made for me; I’m not its target audience. Neither are you. I know this because said audience isn’t old enough to read this review or comprehend its meaning. If you’re reading this because you want to know whether your (very small) child will enjoy “The Boss Baby,” I’ll cut right to the quick and say, yes, your kid will love it, the same way he or she loves bland, tasteless food, and then defecating it into a pull-up rather than a toilet. However, if you’re reading this because you genuinely, no kidding, want to know whether or not you yourself ought to see “The Boss Baby” this weekend, and you’re legitimately seeking an objective and insightful assessment of the film’s relative merits and deficiencies, then there’s something very wrong with you. Please stop watching movies of this sort. Seriously. Stop it. And stop taking adult vacations to Disneyland, too, because it’s weird.
Can one be too hard an animated Talking Baby Movie? That’s a rhetorical question, but to hell with it, I’ll answer it anyway: no, they can’t. It’s like asking whether one can ever breathe enough oxygen, eat too many Doritos, or receive too many compliments for their snarky, condescending film reviews. “The Boss Baby” is a dripping, filthy, sweaty diaper, and it stinks. And yet “The Boss Baby” is smarter and craftier than we are in many regards; its plot involves the cynical use of babies and puppies to sell product, all the while using babies and puppies to sell product. Ha! See that? They beat the movie critics to the punch! It’s so meta it makes you want to find a baby, a puppy, a bag, and a lake, and introduce all four in short order.
While I’m fully aware that, on paper, this is a kids’ movie, the film itself isn’t. The hilarious tagline (“Cookies are for closers”) is emblematic of the types of jokes sprinkled throughout “The Boss Baby” like rat poison – they’re riffs on “The Apprentice,” and contain corporate business clichés like “You’re fired!” and “There’s an escape clause in your life insurance that will allow you to kill yourself without preventing your wife from collecting the full balance.” Okay, I made that last one up; I was fantasizing that the editors at The Dagger would offer me such an opportunity once I realized there was still another half hour of “The Boss Baby” to go. After all, it’s a movie where a baby has the voice of Alec Baldwin who, unbeknownst to his parents, is trying to become the big cheese at something called Baby Corp. Add an “s” and an “e” to that final word and you’ll stop wondering where the almost subliminal thoughts of death and sweet, sweet, blissful release come from. It’s like the movie is challenging you to survive it. “Cookies are for closers”? A more apt tagline would read: “Cut the cord…then cut your wrists!”
It’s worth mentioning that the preview audience, nearly three-quarters of whom were children, were beside themselves with laughter. Of course they were; they’re kids. I alone was the sourpuss. Because the alleged gags are seemingly above its audiences’ collective head in their riffs on Trump and other corporate scumbags (making their inclusion all the more bizarre and worthy of unbridled hate), there is a whiplash-inducing transition to pee and poo jokes. The parents in the room were particularly troubling, as one would be led to believe that a theater speckled with braying soccer moms had collectively agreed that an animated baby shaking its ass to disco was a breakthrough in comedy as a genre. I have to tell myself it was simply euphoria: a ninety-minute reprieve from their progeny’s whining, crying, hyperactive behavior. For them, “The Boss Baby” may have been the Saturday morning equivalent of a stiff drink. Rather than, say, going to the park together, or reading a book aloud, children and their parents can strangle the brain cells during “The Boss Baby,” bonding through the shared act of murdering their own sense of humor.
But boy oh boy, were there a lot of butt jokes! The baby struts. It farts a cloud of talcum powder. Its prodigious, succulent rump is amplified, bolstered, and exaggerated to Kardashian levels of voluptuousness. After a while you begin to wonder why the filmmakers are sexualizing the baby, until you begin looking at yourself sideways and wondering why the hell you’re thinking about it. The movie actually managed to make me despise myself. And yet there it is, this prancing, animated child with its rough, whispery voice: a singularly disgusting, unholy creation born of animators trying desperately to entertain themselves with shot-for-shot “Raiders of the Lost Ark” gags that no kid (or their soccer mom) will ever understand.
At one point, the baby is nearly impaled by the heel of a woman’s shoe. Oh, would that the baby had been impaled by the heel of that woman’s shoe! Would that the “Matrix Reloaded”-style bicycle chase had injected realism and shown the baby’s probable fate in a similar high-speed scenario! After all, we get Baby Elvis; we get Baby Pirate; we even get Baby Stunt Cyclist. Couldn’t we have gotten a Baby Coffin? Unfortunately not, as the movie stops dead (!) during an extended puke gag to literally remind kids to ALWAYS WEAR YOUR BIKE HELMET. It’s like they did that on purpose!
And yet for all my ranting, the best review came during the final minutes of the film, when a real, genuine infant began crying somewhere above and behind me. He’d finally had enough. The dutiful parent – who clearly just had to see how “The Boss Baby” ended – hovered near the exit ramp, attempting to sooth the child while remaining fixed on the screen; but the kid just screamed louder and louder until Dad gave up took him away from the horrible spectacle on display. That’s one baby who deserves to strut.
Directed by Tom McGrath
Written by Michael McCullers
Rated PG for some mild rude humor