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‘The Boss Baby’ review: Alec Baldwin’s funny, but the story’s strained

Alec Baldwin provides the voice of a new arrival to a family in this animated comedy (Credit: Dreamworks)

PLOT An only child’s tranquil home is invaded by a baby brother.

CAST Voices of Alec Baldwin, Steve Buscemi, Tobey Maguire

RATED PG (some rude humor)

LENGTH 1:37

BOTTOM LINE The voice of Baldwin as an infantile CEO is the selling point here, but a few good lines aren’t enough to recommend this chopped-and-strained comedy.

Surely it’s just coincidence that Alec Baldwin provides the voice of a bullying, petulant business leader in “The Boss Baby,” a new film from DreamWorks Animation. This project was in the planning stages long before Baldwin began impersonating Donald Trump on “Saturday Night Live,” but a quick Google search will turn up plenty of comparisons between the two caricatures. It hasn’t escaped notice that Theodore Templeton, Baldwin’s suit-wearing infant in “The Boss Baby,” has tiny hands.

Here’s another comparison: Like those Trump skits, “The Boss Baby” is good for about five minutes of laughs. Over the length of a feature film, however, the material wears awfully thin. Originally a children’s picture book (written and illustrated by Marla Frazee), “The Boss Baby” is a cute concept that’s been stretched beyond its breaking point.

“The Boss Baby” is narrated by a now-grown Tim Templeton (Tobey Maguire), who recalls when his quiet life as an only child (Miles Bakshi plays the 7-year-old Tim) was shattered by the arrival of baby Theodore. Tim, an imaginative kid, envisions his new brother as a corporate honcho who treats his parents like interns and cries for emergency “meetings” at all hours of the night. “One thing was clear,” Tim says, providing the film’s thesis statement, “he was the boss.”

It’s certainly fun to hear an infant speaking in Baldwin’s cigar-club rumble. “Cookies are for closers,” Theodore growls at a drooling underling — a “Glengarry Glen Ross” moment for the diaper set. Screenwriter Michael McCullers has 90 minutes to fill, however, and so “The Boss Baby” develops into an impossible story in which Theodore is an actual, literal executive, at something called BabyCorp. His mission is to bring down Puppy Co., whose fuzzy products are even cuter than babies. (There’s a company that makes puppies?) Steve Buscemi is the voice of Puppy Co.’s evil president, Francis Francis.

In the end, Theodore must learn that family is more important than career — a bizarre notion given that he’s an infant (isn’t he?). Children may be entertained by the frenetic slapstick from director Tom McGrath (“The Penguins of Madagascar”), while adults will be kept awake by Baldwin’s occasional zingers, but “The Boss Baby” probably should have stayed in board-book form.

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