REVIEW: The Boss Baby: Family Business [2021]

Rating: 7 out of 10.
  • Rating: PG | Runtime: 107 minutes
    Release Date: July 2nd, 2021 (USA)
    Studio: DreamWorks Animation / Universal Pictures
    Director(s): Tom McGrath
    Writer(s): Michael McCullers / Marla Frazee (characters)

Apparently, there’s no “a” in “teamwork” either.

Anyone who’s seen The Boss Baby knows a sequel was set-up via the revelation that a now grown-up Tim’s (Tobey Maguire) second daughter was sent by Baby Corp. for a yet unknown mission. The previous Templeton plant (Alec Baldwin‘s Theodore) had chosen to stay and grow up to fulfill the promise of his toddler-sized suit so that the clan could have their deserved happy ending. What then would Baby Corp.’s reason be for taking this family hostage again just one generation later? How could director Tom McGrath and screenwriter Michael McCullers‘ craft a story by having Marla Frazee‘s characters inhabiting their (much) younger bodies despite placing them in a year when both Tim (now played by James Marsden) and Ted are adults? Did you even watch the original?

Let’s face it: The Boss Baby: Family Business can do whatever it wants thanks to the franchise’s decision to render its reality more outlandish than the outlandish flights of fancy Tim used to imagine while doing things as mundane as walking down the street. Heck, Tim still loses himself in what his parents (yes, Jimmy Kimmel and Lisa Kudrow return) have coined “Tim Time” even in middle age. His wife (Eva Longoria‘s Carol) plays along because he does so under the guise of “playing with the kids,” but I’m pretty sure he’d be enjoying riffs on “the floor is lava” with or without Tabitha (Ariana Greenblatt) and baby Tina (Amy Sedaris). Tim’s a big kid. He’ll always be a big kid. It’s why he and Ted are estranged.

Well. Not for long. Tina’s mission from Baby Corp. relies on Tim and Ted working together … even if it means drinking the magic baby formula they left behind decades ago to turn back the clock, go undercover, and take down the principal (Jeff Goldblum‘s Dr. Armstrong) at Tabitha’s shady charter school. If Tim suddenly being a classmate of his daughter’s helps him get closer to her just when she’s been pulling away, all the better. So, I guess this is less of a kid’s film than a lesson for parents who may have lost their way either by becoming too serious (Ted) or not serious enough (Tim). If the original was about learning to share your love with a new sibling, this sequel is about remembering how.

Don’t therefore be surprised to find that Family Business is weirder, wilder, and more random than its predecessor already was. It must be when the actual plot resonates more with the adults in the audience than the children who dragged them to the theater. We’re talking advanced physics jokes. Beating two unsuspecting children behind a bush to swipe their clothes as disguises. Baby ninjas. Enough sugar consumption to turn diabetic just by watching. And, of course, a Norma Rae union gag because kids love nothing more than heady mentions of a 1979 double Oscar winner. I’d say things get dark too thanks to educated pre-teens trying to scare their parents straight on global warming, but it’s too tongue-in-cheek to not remain a comedy through and through.

That’s what happens, though, when the main characters in your irreverent children’s film are grown men playing children. The gag at the center of the previous film’s conceit is all but erased now because Ted is a real-world executive shrunk into diapers rather than the alien-like pod baby he was before (Tina is that pod baby, but she’s an enlightened progressive who’s able to create a healthy work/life balance that a Boomer like Ted never could). McCullers’ script has more in common with the body-swap genre than Frazee’s source material, something made abundantly clear once young Tim (going by an off-the-cuff name that only someone with infinite imagination and zero improvisation skills could muster) is confronted by the two people who’d recognize his new look: Mom and Dad.

It’s the sort of humor we adults can enjoy while the kids revel in more off-the-wall aspects like parent zombies, creepy babies in need of Ritalin, and Keystone Cops action sequences that even bring grown-up versions of Jimbo and the Triplets along for the ride. With nightmare sequences; another trippy, pacifier-induced journey to Baby Corp.; and frenetic battles that eventually pit baby-wielding robot suits against one another, I’d caution to go easy on the candy for the kids and edibles for you because things do get crazy. As long as Tim and Ted have each other’s backs, however, everything should turn out okay. Because their mutual support will lead them to support Tabitha against her bullies and perhaps even earn Tina a promotion—not that she cares anyway.

[1] Photo Credit: DreamWorks Animation LLC Caption (from left) Tina Templeton (Amy Sedaris), The Boss Baby/Ted Templeton (Alec Baldwin) and young Tim Templeton (James Marsden) in The Boss Baby: Family Business, directed by Tom McGrath. Copyright © 2021 DreamWorks Animation LLC. All Rights Reserved.
[2] Photo Credit: DreamWorks Animation LLC Caption Dr. Erwin Armstrong (Jeff Goldblum) in DreamWorks Animation’s The Boss Baby: Family Business, directed by Tom McGrath. Copyright © 2021 DreamWorks Animation LLC. All Rights Reserved.
[3] Photo Credit: DreamWorks Animation LLC Caption (from left) Tim Templeton (James Marsden), Tina Templeton (Amy Sedaris) and Ted Templeton (Alec Baldwin) in DreamWorks Animation’s “The Boss Baby: Family Business,” directed by Tom McGrath. Copyright © 2020 DreamWorks Animation LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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