2 Stars — Struggling

The animated tale of two brothers who come to recognize the value of love sounds like a story we would appreciate. However in the telling of The Boss Baby, we enter such a disturbing context that we struggle to appreciate this simple truth.

Based on a children’s book by Marla Frazee and adapted for the screen by Michael McCullers, director Tom McGrath introduces us to the global conglomerate, Baby Corp., whose business is to make babies.

With a futuristic factory that prepares the babies for either a “family” or “management,” we are introduced to Boss Baby (voice by Alec Baldwin). Chosen by a simple test to see if he is capable of laughter, Boss Baby fails and is selected to become a suit-wearing manager of the company.

However, the narrator of the tale is 7-year-old Tim Templeton (Tobey Maquire). Living the ideal life as an only child receiving all the love of his father, Ted (Jimmy Kimmel), and his mother, Janice (Lisa Kudrow), Tim is a child with an active imagination. It is this imagination that we visually enjoy in this surreal journey.

This odyssey not only takes into the internal struggles of sibling rivalry, but also that of corporate espionage. We soon discover that Boss Baby is on a mission and Tim’s parents were chosen for their positions at Puppy Co. as marketing directors.

It seems that the market share for love is being taken over by the love of puppies over babies. There is a rumor that Puppy Co. is about to release a new “puppy” that will take over the market forever and put Baby Corp. out of business. It is Boss Baby’s mission to discover the secrets of this rival corporation and report back.

We won’t spoil the film to tell how all of this works out, but it presents such a disturbing view of siblings that the resolution at the end does not overcome this deficit. The quirky humor of the film is perhaps based on this being both the seasoned direction of McGrath, known for the Madagascar films in partnership with McCullers, who wrote for Saturday Night Live as well as films like Undercover Brother and Baby Mama.

The truth that there is plenty of love is a valuable lesson. We only hope that is what the children watching the PG-rated film remember. We agree that parental guidance is appropriate.


» The world of an only child is turned upside down by the addition of the second child, and sibling rivalry can even become abusive. How have you experienced your birth-order position in your family? How has your position among your siblings affected your personality?

» The vengeance of Francis E. Francis (Steve Buscemi) toward his original company portrays a resentful rage similar to that of a baby’s tantrum. Do you see such behavior in real life? In your place of work? How does it become more sophisticated as a person ages?

» The truth that love expands to fill the relationships we have is portrayed in this film. When did you learn that truth and how has it changed you?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is a former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is the retired pastor of Free Methodist Church of Santa Barbara and lead superintendent of Free Methodist Church in Southern California. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com, or follow them on Twitter: @CinemaInFocus. The opinions expressed are their own.