It wasn’t long after The Boss Baby hit theaters in 2017 that its reception was effectively divided into two distinct groups. The first group consisted of the people who believed the familiar computer-animated romp received a significant boost from its mischievous, Looney Tunes-inspired visual sense. The second group had the people who thought it wasn’t sufficient compensation for the film’s sporadic plotting.
Almost four years later, the release of The Boss Baby: Family Business serves as a disheartening example of stunted development, with a truncated concept and small character growth that amount to more (or less) of the same, depending on where one stood on the first time around.
With the majority of his original voice cast in tow, led by Alec Baldwin as a cutthroat exec trapped in a toddler’s body, returning director Tom McGrath and screenwriter Michael McCullers had an opportunity to build on an entirely workable formula but instead have settled for a frenetic sugar rush of a retread that quickly outlives its welcome.
Pint-sized viewers may be distracted by the loud, chaotic outcome. Still, most viewers will be hard-pressed to find the proceedings sweet and endearing when the Universal film hits cinemas on July 2, the same day that it begins a 60-day streaming run on Peacock.com.
Except for the four-season Netflix series The Boss Baby: Back in Business, the last time we saw the title character was after he had returned from Baby Corp. and reverted to his ordinary newborn form of Theodore “Ted” Templeton, Jr. Big brother Tim (James Marsden, who takes over for Tobey Maguire as narrator) recalls how the two have grown apart over the years.
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Ted is a successful hedge fund CEO, while Tim is a homemaker with two young daughters. He is married to Eva Longoria’s professional bread baker, Carol, who appears in the film. But when Tabitha (Amy Sedaris) reveals that she is, in fact, a secret agent for Baby Corp., she brings her father and uncle back together with a dose of the age-reversing formula in an attempt to bring down the evil Dr. Irwin Armstrong (Jeff Goldblum), who is intent on launching a worldwide baby revolution that would result in the mass elimination of parents.
Even though the original film, loosely based on the Marla Frazee picture books, had some poignant things to say about family dynamics — including an incredibly tender twist at the end — its sequel carelessly tosses in obligatory moments of ostensible heart without bothering to elicit an accurate emotional response from the audience.
In their absence, along with the decision to forego the vintage visual style that contributed to the original film’s nostalgic edge, the sequel can’t help but appear blandly generic compared to its predecessor.
Another chance in casting seems to have gone unnoticed this time around. Unlike the first film, in which the concept of Baldwin’s authoritative voice emanating from the mouth of a babe gave the film its immediate comedy cache, the perkier Sedaris, while always a welcome presence, does not possess the sort of deeper, unmistakably adult register that, say, a Whoopi Goldberg or Christine Baranski would keep.
Changing the actors may have resulted in a funnier, more innovative building on what worked the first time rather than tossing the baby out with the bathwater, as was the case in so many other aspects of the production.
Final Verdict Of Boss Baby Family Business: 2/5