Every Republican regime gets the ludicrous devious-baby saga it deserves. The Dubya years begat one of film history’s all-time sequels no one asked for, Bob Clark’s Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2, in which a kid actor playing the young version of Jon Voight’s crypto-Nazi character memorably whines, “I feel more German than American!” And now the Trump epoch, for as long as it lasts, gets the polished, soulless animated trifle The Boss Baby. Appropriately, Clark’s take on talking toddlers was moronic but irrepressibly itself, the cinematic equivalent of a doddering fool fumbling with his rain poncho. And this DreamWorks Animation misfire is a calculated, media-savvy fraud that seems to emerge from a parallel, unapologetically crass alternate universe ruled by the least culturally qualified gatekeepers.
That the title character is portrayed by Alec Baldwin, the same actor currently mocking—and, yes, normalizing—our encephalitic head of state on Saturday Night Live, is undoubtedly a coincidence. But an eerie coincidence it is. Baldwin plays the unwelcome baby brother to Tim Templeton, a seven-year-old who’s enjoyed enough time as an only child that you latently suspect his virulent reaction to getting a baby brother—immediately suspecting the infant to be, in actuality, a corporate wheeler and dealer—represents a kiddie matinee experiment with the literary concept of an unreliable narrator.
It’s quickly revealed that Boss Baby is, in fact, a hyper-sentient, ruthlessly ascendant upper-level case manager at Baby Corp., a company theoretically in danger of losing its market share to Puppy Co. but which clearly would thrive so long as there are parents who refuse to inform their children where babies actually come from. (Which, if they’re taking them to conveyor-belt films like The Boss Baby, there are plenty.) With no love lost between Tim and Boss, the unwilling siblings agree to work together to stop Puppy Co. from unleashing the most heart-shreddingly adorable new dog breed, ensuring Boss a promotion that will sweep him right out of the Templeton house forever.
The Boss Baby is nothing beyond rote, but the premise that there’s only enough of a specific philosophical resource in the world (in this case love) to go around, and that competing interests have to be squashed lest someone else get a share of the limelight speaks for itself. As do all the tantrums.