Despite its success, there are many who have never seen the DreamWorks’ 2017 hit film, The Boss Baby. This is especially sad for animation lovers because the film was original with a nod to a classic animation style of yesteryear. It was not based on a comic book series, but instead a well-loved, yet fairly unknown children’s book by Marla Frazee. Tom McGrath’s film was even nominated for an Oscar for Best Animated Feature. The story, at least for the first half of the film, was a delightful tale of an older brother’s overactive imagination. It told the story of seven-year-old Tim’s jealousy of his newborn brother who he imagines to be a secret agent working undercover for the mythical Baby Corp. Of course, his parents were having none of that nonsense. It was a very clever tale about sibling rivalry.
This week, DreamWorks is releasing the sequel, The Boss Baby: Family Business, into theaters and streaming on Peacock and with a message for parents. Though as well-intentioned as this follow up is, it misses the mark and overstays its welcome.
Family Business follows up on the two siblings during Christmas time many years later. Tim Templeton (voiced by James Marsden) is all grown up, married to Carol (Eva Longoria) with two kids of his own. He’s also a stay-at-home dad (and perhaps the first I’ve seen in the animated world). The film re-explains that he has always had an active imagination and for the most part, it is welcomed by his young family. Although, his antics are starting to wear thin for oldest daughter, Tabitha (Ariana Greenblatt) who thinks she is too old for childish fun. By contrast, Tim’s brother, Theodore (Alec Baldwin) is now a single, super-rich, super successful business man.
Though once close, the two brothers don’t see each other very often and neither of them seem to remember the misadventures they took in the first movie. In fact, there is virtually no recap from the first feature to get new audience members up to speed making it unnecessarily complicated from the get go. But history repeats itself when Tim is checking in on his infant daughter Tina to find that she talks just like Amy Sedaris!
It is about this time that Theodore makes a surprise family visit to see his favorite niece where he learns that little Tina is following in her uncle’s footsteps working at Baby Corp. She’s on a mission to save the world and needs their help. It turns out that the private school Tabitha goes to is being run by the evil Dr. Armstrong (Jeff Goldblum) who has nefarious plans for the children. (Goldblum makes for an excellent villain by the way.) In order to complete her mission, Tina needs her dad and uncle to literally relive their childhoods and infiltrate the school.
All of the charm that was found in The Boss Baby is completely sucked out here. Instead of continuing on with Tim’s wild imagination, the stories about Baby Corp appear to be real. The message for parents is a warning to not be so consumed by their cell phones or worrying about their kids’ grades that they miss real important family moments together. This is all well and good, but this movie is clearly meant for kids, so the message doesn’t make a lot of sense.
The Boss Baby: Family Business is a lost opportunity to something really clever with this franchise and McGrath deserves props for trying to create a storyline that would appeal to both kids and parents. But McGrath’s talents don’t shine through this time around and the end result is one mess of a movie. Most of the humor is over-the-top and silly whereas in the original film, the jokes were a little cleverer with winks toward the parents. It’s overly long, very loud and anemic to any real touching moments. Even the messages of the show-stopping song by Tim’s daughter during a Christmas pageant about “together we stand or divided we fall” (which is probably the most generic-sounding Christmas song out there) gets lost in the shuffle. Trying to be sentimental while staying true to a politically correct message.
There’s nothing harmful here, and kids will probably love it even if they don’t understand it. For parents, they’ll feel like they are being talked down to.
(Main Image: DreamWorks)
I write about pop culture, arts and entertainment in the greater Seattle area.