PG for baby jokes. I feel like this one is more tame than the last one, which really played up the full diaper jokes more than I would have cared for. Like many kids' movies, there's that element of peril that can make sensitive children nervous. Using my seven-year-old sensitive boy as a litmus test, he was more upset about the anxiety that the kids were facing than the actual peril that they were in. But the movie is remarkably tame, so PG it is!
DIRECTOR: Tom McGrath
Okay, I was the one who preached the first Boss Baby movie. I didn't love it, but I did respect the daylights out of that movie. Now I'm stuck with an overdue RedBox disc that I have to return on the way home and a long blog entry that I frankly don't want to write. If I have to encapsulate this movie, it might be one of the more unnecessary sequels imaginable. It seems like a big step backwards. It's not like the movie is unenjoyable or anything like that. It's just that it doesn't have anything special in it, with the exception of the casting of Jeff Goldblum as a baby.
This is going to be a bit of hyperbole, but there was something special about the first movie. Sure, watching The Boss Baby for a lot of the last two generations is an exercise in irony. I remember that one of the younger teachers bought me a Boss Baby poster for my film classroom and claimed it was the pinnacle of art. (It kept trying to sneak back into my class.) But the first film took a very relatable, human experience and turned it into a comedy. The story of Tim coming to grips with the notion that his brother, who had a drastically different personality to him, might be changing the dynamic of the family is a story that a lot of kids could relate to. Tim was this character who was a savant of imagination. He lived in this rich world where his mind would create adventures for him. Because of that creativity, it is implied that Tim created the notion of BabyCorp to justify his brother's villainy. When the film ends, it has that glorious Wizard of Oz ambiguity. Was BabyCorp real or was it a way for Tim to cope with massive change in his life?
That ambiguity was important. It was the Schrodinger's Cat of narrative storytelling. Similarly, the knowledge that Tim and Ted would grow up together and be there for each other was all of the epilogue we would need. Like Neo threatening to take down the Matrix, we understood the beats without it being spelled out for us. But Family Business decided to forego anything subtle that the first movie left for us and decided to capitalize on the success of a newfound franchise. This movie feels like a real cash grab compared to the first one. It's not like the first Boss Baby movie was the height of artistic merit. But I felt like there was a team that really cared about telling a good story. And that's where the movie really loses me. The first film dealt with the struggles of childhood from a child's perspective. Tim and Ted were relatable to children because they viewed the world like children with the vocabulary of adulthood. But this movie is about adults who simply look like babies.
How does anyone relate to that? Part of me should be screaming that it is about Tim's imagination trying to make sense of what his daughter is going through, but that's really pushing the envelope. Don't get me wrong. That's what the script and director Tim McGrath want me to take away from the story, but it is causing me to do more legwork than the movie was ready to do. Because these aren't the same characters. Rather than be a movie about children acting like a adults, this is the story of adults looking like children. There isn't that same level of awkwardness that we see in movies like Big. Ted actually rarely comes across as funny because he's instantly on board with this absurd revelation. Coupled with this is the assurity that the world of BabyCorp is absolutely real. Because multiple people interact with the events of Family Business, both during the plot of the film and the epilogue, there's no scenario where this is a coping mechanism that Tim uses for watching his daughter grow up. Nope. Tim and Ted are now closer because they're aware of the secret world of babies.
Doesn't that --I don't know --cheapen the whole thing? When it was Tim using his imagination, it was this universal message that people could really jump on. But when this is the world of a literal BabyCorp and that babies can secretly talk, what's relatable about that? My mind instantly makes a parallel about Toy Story, but that's kind of apples and oranges. The toys in Toy Story live their own lives because the two worlds never meet. For all we know, Andy is imagining these lives for his toys. But with babies just deciding to talk to adults, there's a lot to unpack that this movie absolutely refuses to do. Heck, the movie even points out its own flaw to Mom, who is in on the eponymous family business by answering a toy phone at the end. Why isn't she part of this family business? The clear answer is that the movie only cares to try and recapture the adventures of Ted and Tim for another round of baby hijinks. It's kind of why Tina's part is so garbage. We can pretend that this is the passing of the torch to Tabatha and Tina, but they have such a reduced storyline compared to Ted and Tim.
From there, the movie just becomes the most generic thing imaginable. I mean, I've already stated that Jeff Goldblum gives his best in the antagonist's role, but that story is absolutely nothing. He plays a pretty over-the-top villain. The elimination of parents is a pretty weak choice. While I appreciate the commentary about adults being too devoted to their phones, it's pretty low hanging fruit. It doesn't really come down on adults for any flaws. If anything, it is more criticizing Tim for almost no reason. The only negative trait that Tim has is that he's late for things. But he's this supporting guy who continues to be supporting for the entire film. Tim doesn't actually learn anything about Tabitha. If anything, he just learns about Ted, which isn't that great of a shock. He's a good dad who will do anything for his daughter and that's not something that really needs to be corrected for the film.
And that's where McGrath really drops the ball. Tim uses his opportunity at a second childhood to boost Tabitha's self-esteem. Because she won't listen to an adult, Tabitha instead confides in Tim's younger alter-ego, Marcos. From a peer, she can hear the advice that her dad wants to give her. But from an audience's perspective, it definitely feels like Tabitha is dating Marcos / her dad. It never really feels like a father / daughter relationship but more of a boyfriend / girlfriend relationship. Considering that this is one of the major elements of the film, it just doesn't read right at all. Perhaps it comes from the fact that it's father / daughter as opposed to father / son. But it looks like everyone else is seeing the same thing that I am. The fact that Tabitha's grandmother jokes that she "doesn't like that kid" implies that he's not good enough for her. I get it, Mr. McGrath. She's dogging on her own kid by means of dramatic irony, but there are repercussions to those kinds of comments.
So I'm left with a movie that I was really bored by. It really tries harping on the action movie elements of the story, coupled with a reliance on good will to get through a lot of the plot. While the first Boss Baby ended up being better than a lot of people would give it credit for, the second one really feels forced and kind of a slog to get through. I will say that my kids liked it and even my wife didn't hate it. But me, it was a bit of pulling teeth.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.