Everything about The Boss Baby appeared to be designed to repel me. By the time the movie hit the 17-minute mark, I was just about ready to shut it off because I thought I knew exactly where it was going and why I was going to hate it.
But then something strange happened. By the 42-minute mark, the movie had completely turned around and won me over. I was suddenly invested in the characters and enjoying the story. I didn’t know what to expect, but I was excited to find out what would happen. It was a weird experience to go from intensely disliking a film to thoroughly enjoying it within such a short timeframe, and I’d like to take you on that emotional rollercoaster of a journey.
I can see why some people are perplexed by the fact that The Boss Baby was nominated for the Best Animated Feature Academy Award. I admit it isn’t in the same league as How to Train Your Dragon, Kung Fu Panda 2, or other beloved films that have been nominated for that particular Oscar. But even though the film isn’t perfect, it works a kind of magic on me that makes me respect it in a way that movies that are perfect the whole way through do not.
Here’s how The Boss Baby won me over.
Not Just a Toy Story Knockoff
The first 17 minutes of the movie are spent setting up the basic story premise. There’s a 7-year-old boy named Tim who loves being an only child because he gets to be the center of attention of his adoring parents. But then his baby brother is born and he is forced to compete for his parents’ attention. He feels isolated and cut off as his parents spend more and more time on the baby to the point of exhaustion. I was getting a real Toy Story vibe from all of this. It was exactly like what happened when Buzz Lightyear appeared out of nowhere and stole the limelight from Woody. So I figured the rest of the movie would involve the two boys getting lost and going on an adventure to make it back home before their parents noticed their absence. And along the way they would bond and come to love each other. All of that kind of happens, but not in the way I expected (and dreaded).
What started to clue me into the fact that this wasn’t going to be just a Toy Story knockoff was when Tim decides to take matters into his own hands and get some incriminating evidence on his baby brother. He knows that the baby can talk like a grownup, but his parents don’t believe him. His imagination runs wild as he pictures himself as a ninja getting ambushed by zombies. In reality, he’s just being swarmed by toddlers. The Boss Baby has called a meeting of his peers, and this scene turns out to be both informative and hilarious. He lays out the details of his reconnaissance mission to discover why people are giving more love to puppies and less love to babies. After relaying all of the information in a nice, concise presentation, he realizes that the toddlers have understood nothing. They are just children after all, so they have no grasp of such heady topics as he is attempting to communicate to them. At this point, something changed in me. No longer was I looking at the Boss Baby from the perspective of Tim. He wasn’t just an annoying little cretin who wishes to spread misery everywhere he goes, but he’s actually faced with a very relatable situation. He has a major problem he needs to solve and no one around him seems to be able to comprehend that fact. That’s incredibly frustrating and it’s something that I think a lot of people have experienced.
Suddenly, the Boss Baby isn’t the bad guy. I can put myself in his shoes, and that makes a world of difference.
From that point on, I started to get invested in his character and to want him to win. I was actually relieved when Tim’s plan to get incriminating evidence on his baby brother backfires and he gets grounded. And not long after that, the movie does something really smart. Tim and the Boss Baby team up. They realize that they both have the same goal, and so it is best if they work together to achieve it. Tim wants the Boss Baby to go back to where he came from and so does the Boss Baby, and the only way to do that is to get to the bottom of the mysterious lack of parental love for babies. Forty-two minutes in, the film has successfully tied together three things I care about: Tim, the Boss Baby, and my own desire for children to be loved more than pets. This film has reminded me of all the love I have experienced as a result of becoming a father that I never could have felt from owning a puppy.
The rest of the film is just a pure delight. It’s not your standard kids-try-to-get-back-to-their-parents story, like The Land Before Time or The Secret Life of Pets. There’s a little more weight to the story because it’s dealing with issues that are larger than the two kids and their parents.
I especially like how Tim and the Boss Baby invite each other into their fantasy worlds. Tim is encouraged to suck on a special pacifier to share a vision of Baby Corp., which is the corporate office in heaven that tracks all the love being directed toward babies, among other things. Tim feels a little silly sucking on the pacifier at first, but he soon finds himself having a lot of fun wandering around a corporate environment brimming with pint-sized bureaucrats.
Later, Tim invites the Boss Baby to join him on one of his imaginative adventures. This one involves pirates. The Boss Baby feels silly at first, but as soon as he commits to the illusion, he finds himself having the time of his life battling pirates and swashbuckling his way across the high seas. Through these shared experiences, the brothers come to care about each other, and I come to relate even more to them.
Finding the Ticklish Spot
The best way to explain my change of heart about this film is actually found in the film itself. At the start of the film, the Boss Baby is on a heavenly conveyor belt surrounded by millions of other babies waiting to be sent to loving families on Earth. The final test he is put through before being assigned to a family involves being tickled on his tummy by a feather. Every other baby giggles at the sensation, but the Boss Baby doesn’t register any emotion at all when the feather brushes his tummy. Because of the lack of emotional response, he is diverted to the soulless corporate environment of Baby Corp. But at the end of the film, after he has successfully completed his mission and returned to Baby Corp., he realizes that he yearns to be back with his family and so he jumps back onto the conveyor belt. This time, instead of allowing the feather to tickle his tummy, he offers his foot to it, and he erupts in hysterical laughter when the feather touches it. He’s discovered that he’s not immune to joyous feelings, but he just needed to find the right way to bring them out of him.
That is exactly like what happened to me over the course of the film. I felt as though I was immune to its charms at the start. I was unmoved by its attempts at comedy. But the movie kept probing until it found that soft spot in me and it got me to lower my defenses and smile at its fun twists and turns. By the end, I couldn’t help laughing with the film because it had found the right way to tickle my brain.
Even if The Boss Baby doesn’t win an award, it’s already won high honors from me for managing to win me over when I thought there was no chance it would.
This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.
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