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The Boss Baby
A virtuoso vocal performance from Alec Baldwin as a tyrannical infant, who wears a black business suit, carries a briefcase and pulls the wool over the eyes of his sleep-deprived adult handlers, almost carries Tom McGrath's colourful computer-animated fantasy to full term. It's a neat conception though not a smooth delivery and Michael McCullers' screenplay, loosely based on the award-winning picture book by Marla Frazee, has pregnant pauses where plot and gags should be. Boss Baby suckles on its neat premise, feeding Baldwin infrequent zinging dialogue like when his pint-sized corporate lackey swats away taunts about having to wear a nappy: "You know who else wears diapers? Astronauts and NASCAR drivers!" Seth MacFarlane has been traversing this rich comic territory with greater acuity since 1999 in his animated TV series, Family Guy, through the character of megalomaniacal toddler genius, Stewie Griffin. Evidently, there are only so many genuine laughs to go round before McGrath's hare-brained caper has to resort to toilet humour and shameless emotional manipulation to pad out the 97 minutes. Every night, seven-year-old Tim Templeton (voiced by Miles Christopher Bakshi) enjoys three bedtime stories, five hugs and a special song from his parents Ted (Jimmy Kimmel) and Janice (Lisa Kudrow), who make time for their boy despite demanding jobs for Puppy Co. This bond is severely tested with the arrival of a brother called Boss Baby (Baldwin), who conceals his status as a fast-rising executive at BabyCorp until Tim catches the new arrival talking business on a toy 'phone. "If people knew where babies really came from, they'd never have one. A bit like hot dogs," Boss Baby tersely informs his sibling. It transpires that Boss Baby is on a secret mission to stop Puppy Co's CEO, Francis E Francis (Steve Buscemi), from launching a new product that could weaken humankind's enduring love for babies. "If this new puppy is as cute as we think, it could put the baby business out of business, baby!" warns the smartly suited infant with an overinflated sense of self-importance. Tim initially rages against Boss Baby, but he soon realises that helping his nemesis to complete the mission, thereby earning promotion, would be the quickest route to ridding the family home of a second child. The Boss Baby ties itself in knots blurring fantasy and reality. If the wise-cracking title character is supposed to be a product of Tim's overactive imagination, it's hard to accept that a seven-year-old boy would have a rich and detailed grasp on the cut and thrust of suited corporate America and rampant capitalism. Baldwin's bone dry delivery is a masterclass in split-second comic timing and he repeatedly elevates the hit-or-miss material in McCullers' script. "There's not enough love to go round," laments Boss Baby at one point. My affection doesn't quite stretch to McGrath's picture.