When The Boss Baby was released in 2017, it was met with mixed reviews and a cacophony of criticisms- namely “Who is this made for?” The movie consists of a story of a man named Tim Templeton telling his daughter about when his younger brother first came into his life, his younger brother being an infant that arrived in a taxi cab in a suit and speaks like a fully grown adult, referred to as the Bossy Baby of Baby Corp. It was a completely surreal premise, but at the end of the day, it was about learning to accept change and love your siblings. Balancing these genuine moments with the kooky plot and pop-culture references to appeal to adult humor proved to be no easy feat. Despite it’s rocky reception, The Boss Baby launched a franchise, with a television show following and now, the original film’s sequel, Boss Baby: Family Business.
Boss Baby: Family Business is a movie still about Tim Templeton, but this time it’s not only about his distant relationship with his brother, Ted Templeton (ex-Boss Baby, current rich and successful CEO), but also his 7-year-old daughter, Tabitha Templeton, who is growing up too fast. Enter Tina Templeton, Tim’s infant daughter and Baby Corp. operative sent on a mission in which she enlists the help of Tim and Ted in an attempt to help mend their relationship. The brothers take a Baby Corp. formula that transforms them into the ages they were in the first film so they can infiltrate Tabatha’s school and unearth the founder’s secret plans. Sure, there aren’t any puppies involved this time, but Boss Baby: Family Business has no qualms with diving to the same levels of absurdity as its predecessor. While that’s something I personally have no problem with, I’m more than happy to just go with the flow of insanity for the sake of comedy, it definitely is not for everyone and older audiences might find themselves pulled out of the narrative. There are quite a few silly gags, but all-in-all the plot is much more streamlined and relative to the internal conflicts of the characters.
One thing that Boss Baby: Family Business improves upon from the first film is thematic thoroughness. Through Tim’s relationship with both his daughters and his brother, the film examines what it means to value familial love while also striving for professional success. Basically, it’s lonely at the top. Not only do the other characters need to reassess their priorities, but Tim must also introspect on what kind of brother and father he is and confront his personal flaws. This is done in both the traditional sense with siblings butting heads, but also we get to see a 17 Again-esque (or should I say, 7 Again) subplot between Tim and his daughter. Considering the amount of relationships the film explores, the writing is very tight and thorough in relation to thematic continuity. The family moments are done really well, and it’s almost jarring to see such genuine and intimate scenes juxtaposed with over-the-top and silly bits. But that is what The Boss Baby franchise is, and there’s a certain level of charm to it. I will admit; I did find myself laughing, and if not out-loud, at least I was lured into a state of amused delirium.
One positive to having really absurdist concepts, is that there’s a lot of joy to be found in the animation. Dreamworks Animation has always been one of the leaders in colorful, smooth, and well-done animation, and even with a premise such as The Boss Baby, they don’t skimp out on the quality, but instead lean all in. The action scenes are a delight to watch, and the world they’ve constructed remains lively and engaging since it reaches beyond what we’re familiar with in our day-to-day lives.
Other improvements include the voice cast. Alec Baldwin returns as the Boss Baby, and it’s impossible to separate the voice from the actor behind it. In any other scenarios, this would be a detriment to the film, but here it’s a part of the gag. He returns to delivering the same mature references that make you ask “What kid would understand this joke?” But I suppose that irony makes it even funnier for those of us who are meant to get the punchline. The same goes for the casting of Jeff Goldblum. Imagining him as his character is part of the gag, and you rarely see this kind of fun spin on celebrity voice acting roles. A recast from the first film is James Marsden instead of Tobey Maguire as adult Tim, and he keeps his voice post-transformation. Brilliant casting. Fantastic decision. He shines as the hyperactive and imaginative stay-at-home dad with a wonderfully enthusiastic delivery. Marsden even utilizes the same vocal skills he flexed in Enchanted and Hairspray to sing a brief song for the film. Love it. More James Marsden in movies, please, especially if he sings.
Boss Baby: Family Business is a children’s film with a lot of thematic merit. It’s capable of being enjoyed if you suspend your disbelief, and while I can’t imagine older audiences are rushing out to see this film in droves, it definitely has value for those of all ages, more than the first film did. Heartfelt and amusingly absurdist, Boss Baby: The Family Business reminds us of how to cherish our familial relationships and not invest too much emotional energy in being a boss.