I was taken aback, in 2017, when I first saw The Boss Baby. After trailers and promotional materials were endlessly memefied by film critics/pundits, I was not expecting the film to be this good; showcasing a real mastery for expressive animation that was not only amazingly creative but felt fresh and original, completely warranted of its Oscar nomination back in 2018. Criticisms of the movie seemed to have been clouded by an already preestablished bias against the movie before it came out, but, in reality, it was quite enjoyable. I never thought that its sequel, titled The Boss Baby: Family Business, would be as breezy and amazingly creative as the first one, but here we are.
In this instalment, Ted (Alec Baldwin) and Tim Templeton (voiced by James Mardsen, who replaces Tobey Maguire and Miles Bakshi from the first film) are all grown up. Tim is a stay-at-home dad of two children, Tina (Amy Sedaris) and Tabitha (Ariana Greenblatt), while Ted is a 24/7 businessman who has no time for family and only cares about his business. Tim feels helpless over Tabitha, who seemed to have grown up terribly fast over her dad, whilst she is striving for a better future at her new school. However, it is revealed that Tina is actually part of BabyCorp and the school that Tabitha goes to, run by Dr. Erwin Armstrong (Jeff Goldblum), is planning something evil: an app that hypnotizes parents to let kids (and most importantly, babies) do what they want and rule the entire world. It’s now up to Tim and Ted, who magically take a formula to turn back into their child selves again, to save the day and defeat Dr. Armstrong.
When the film started and went straight back into Tim’s imaginative point-of-view, I already knew that it was going to be a great time, which solidified itself during its first main set piece, when Tim and Ted miss the bus to go to the school and must ride a pony to it. The scene goes on for a hefty ten minutes and adds more innumerable objects and characters to it, such as Tim and Ted (and the pony) being whisked away by a large cup and sliding down the streets of the city while wreaking havoc, such as setting a tree on fire or disrupting a screening of Spirit: Stallion of the Cimmaron (in 3D!) for its sole viewer to think that what he’s “seeing” is actually real. It’s an almost indescribable sequence that has to be seen to be believed, as it continuously builds up more characters, with more over-the-top physical (and visual) comedy in the process.
“The screen [in The Boss Baby: Family Business] is filled with lively colours and beautiful kinetic energy”
It feels rare nowadays that animation feels wholly creative, as more studios would rather kowtow to a more “realistic” side. Pixar does it well, but never takes any risks when they need to express something visually. This is more done aurally, through their characters, than by showcasing the true mastery of animation as a purely visual medium. The Mitchells vs. The Machines did it extremely well, and it’s why it’s the best animated of the film so far, mixing the visual vibrancy of highly creative animated sequences that widen the eyes with a sharp and endlessly hilarious script. The Boss Baby: Family Business contains the same vibrancy found in The Mitchells vs. The Machines and strives to be the most creative it can.
The screen is filled with lively colours and beautiful kinetic energy, while Ted fights a horde of baby ninjas, or Dr. Armstrong, who will stop at nothing to get what he wants. If animation isn’t a genre, but a medium, The Boss Baby: Family Business, showcases exactly how stretching and squashing can push the medium beyond its “realistic” facets. Most 3D animated films don’t take creative risks, and this kind of animation only happens once in a blue moon. The last time a 3D animated film was this vivifying (before The Mitchells vs. The Machines) was Fox and (the now defunct) Blue Sky’s Spies in Disguise, back in December 2019.
Aside from its animation, the film’s voice cast elevates its rather subpar material. Alec Baldwin is as funny as ever, and his vocal talents lends itself terrifically well to the character of The Boss Baby, yet again, particularly in scenes that take place at the school, either with students or Dr. Armstrong. Speak of the devil, there couldn’t have been a better actor than Jeff Goldblum to portray the “maniacal” (if you will) doctor who aims to get rid of parents, as his wry (and extremely ironic) sense of humour exalts the character to a highly memorable antagonist. He isn’t a traditional antagonist, though, and learns the error of his ways once he sees the one thing parents have that kids don’t: unconditional love.
It’s through that unconditional love, transmitted from parent to child, that, when the child eventually grows up, they’ll love their own as much as their parents did. The film is unafraid at revealing its central message right from the get-go: you think you have “all the time in the world”, but life moves at a rapid pace, so fast that your children will grow up in the blink of an eye. You should never take what you have for granted and hold your children in your arms to “freeze” time and remind them, continuously, you love them, before life throws you curveballs you won’t be able to avoid.
This is a great message, and shown directly too, but the film lacks a real emotional core for its moral to be absorbed through children and adults. Instead, it prefers to take a rather predictable story with emotional beats you see coming a mile away. And even though its message is incredibly timely, especially in the COVID times we are living in when every privilege we had, even seeing our family, was taken for granted before lockdowns started, none of the film’s more “impactful,” or should I say, dramatic scenes, click.
Tim bonds with Tabitha in school, since he looks like a child (under the pseudonym of Marcos Lightspeed…though he retains his adult voice…so how come doesn’t Tabitha recognize him?) and becomes a bigger father figure for her than he was when in his adult form by telling her to use her imagination to overcome fears, which she does at the Christmas pageant. All of these “bonding” moments feel pretty emotionless, especially once you see what happens during the climax, when Tabitha is whisked away by Tina and becomes inadvertently part of the mission. The real moment that worked for me was when Dr. Armstrong realizes that there’s nothing more powerful than love and seeks to repair his previous errors with his parents, after running away from home and failing to construct a “baby empire.” That should bring a tear to your eye bigger than anything else that this movie will throw at you.
However, even with a familiar script, The Boss Baby: Family Business still manages to shine with its amazingly creative animation and pitch-perfect voice cast, alongside a terrific chemistry between Mardsen and Baldwin, who make some of its comedic situation feel more hilarious than they are. I rarely laugh at comedies nowadays, since it’s always the same old recycled jokes, but I had a good time with this one, and your family might too as well. If you’re looking for the perfect escape at the movies with your children to introduce them to the power of a big screen (it’s also available on Peacock for U.S. viewers), I couldn’t think of a better movie to initiate them to the magic of “da movies.” Come to the theater this weekend and believe in the importance of unconditional love together, you may not regret it.