The Boss Baby (2 stars)

The Boss Baby

Alec Baldwin provides the voice of the titular tot in this insufficiently lovable animation

After initial success with Shrek, Madagascar and Kung Fu Panda, returnable ideas have proved increasingly elusive for DreamWorks Animation. Despite strong box-office for films such as Turbo, The Croods or Home, their output has tended towards animations with boisterous energy rather than lasting appeal. Very loosely based on a 2010 children's book written and illustrated by Marla Frazee, The Boss Baby falls into the same trap; while the visual style is frantic, there's little for audiences of any age to take to their hearts.

'Cookies are for closers,' is the key line of dialogue here as Alec Baldwin sends up his Glengarry Glen Ross persona voicing the titular tot, an infant with the aggressive mannerisms of a ruthless corporate tycoon. The precocious new arrival to the Templeton household brings joy to mom and dad (Lisa Kudrow and Jimmy Kimmel) but upsets seven-year-old Tim (Miles Christopher Bakshi), who fears competition for parental love.

Director Tom McGrath (Madagascar, Megamind), working from a script by Michael McCullers, moves on quickly from the domestic premise to send Tim and the Boss Baby on a trip to Las Vegas to stop the Templetons' boss Francis E Francis (Steve Buscemi) from flooding American homes with puppies, reducing the amount of love available to babies. While the adventure is rendered with a whizz-bang quality, the simple metaphorical strength of the book becomes strangulated and confused when padded-out to feature length.

The charm of Frazee's original story has been overwritten with rude, crude slapstick for kids and a plethora of pop-culture references (from Mary Poppins to Evel Knievel) for adults. Neither can disguise that, as a movie, The Boss Baby just doesn't have the kind of lovable concept that makes for a great family animation, although Baldwin's vocal performance raises a few indulgent smiles.

Previews from Sat 1 Apr. General release from Fri 7 Apr.

The Boss Baby

  • 2 stars
  • 2017
  • USA
  • 1h 37min
  • U
  • Directed by: Tom McGrath
  • Written by: Marla Frazee/Michael McCullers
  • Cast: Miles Christopher Bakshi, Alec Baldwin, Tobey Maguire, Steve Buscemi
  • UK release: 7 April 2017

The Boss Baby (Baldwin) is a tot with the mannerisms of a ruthless corporate tycoon, who upsets seven year old Tim (Bakshi). The frantic visual style and crude slapstick overwrite the charm of the original story by Marla Frazee, and there’s not much for audiences to take to their hearts.