Dreamworks 9: Madagascar

From 2003-2005 I did not see any feature films because I was on a mission for my church. There have been some films like The Incredibles (2004) that I have naturally caught up on but there are still many holes during those years. For example, the first Madagascar film I had never seen prior to this week. The only entry in the franchise I’d seen is the Penguins of Madagascar, which I enjoyed back in 2014. Unfortunately this first entry, Madagascar, isn’t as strong of a film and it left me a bit baffled at how 3 films were made.

I think what surprised me the most about this film is how horrible the animation was. Everything looked very strange and I thought it must have been released in 3D the way the heads of the characters kept flying towards the screen. I mean look at the image above. The neck on the giraffe would have to be 7 ft tall which is pushing it even for a giraffe. It looks so weird and there were many images like that.

Look at this zebra. His eyes are different sizes. His face looks strange and his mouth sticks out and is the size of his entire upper body. It looks so weird.

All of the characters are like that and the animation is also really jerky. Take a look at this clip of a birthday scene. Notice the way the characters heads jerk in front of the camera. It’s not the smooth and professional looking animation you expect from a major studio.

I also thought the story and characters were pretty pedestrian and bland. Basically Marty the Zebra (Chris Rock) is tired of the life of the zoo and he wants to break free (how many times have we seen that story?) while Alex the Lion (Ben Stiller) is fine being pampered. They eventually end up out of the zoo and have to find a way home. It’s pretty simple stuff we’ve seen a million times.

The best part of Madagascar is the voice acting which all works. It’s one of the examples where Dreamworks celebrity casting pay offs. Chris Rock is good as Marty, Ben Stiller as Alex and David Schwimmer as Melman. Most of the other characters aren’t given a ton to do but they fit well.

Also 2 groups of characters save the movie- the lemurs and penguins. The penguins are secret agent penguins that live at the zoo and are very funny. The lemurs live on the island and are ruled by King Julian voiced by Sacha Baron Cohen. They have a funny dance number and provide some unpredictability to the clunky script.

Other than that, I was pretty underwhelmed by Madagascar. The animation was bad. The story was pedestrian and boring. The characters were very predictable and bland. It certainly is shocking something so mediocre inspired 3 sequels. I’m told 2 and 3 get a lot better. Let’s hope so…

Overall Grade- C- for the lemurs and penguins

Dreamworks 8: Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron

I’ll be honest I felt sad while watching today’s Dreamworks film- Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron. It’s not because it is a particularly sad film; although, there are some sad sequences. It’s actually my 2nd favorite Dreamworks film and a severely underrated animated film. The reason I was sad is because it painted so clearly what we have lost in mainstream animation and will probably never get back again.

In many ways Spirit reminds me of an indie animated film like The Red Turtle last year. The stunning 2D animation let’s nature tell it’s own story without any tropes of current animation.  There is no real villain. No cooky sidekick. No comic relief of any kind. It’s Black Beauty set in the old west- except even better in my opinion. Aside from narration, the characters don’t even talk to each other! There is no way such a project would be greenlit today- especially by Dreamworks and that makes me sad (need proof of that look at the terrible spin-off to Spirit on Netflix that has just aired. It’s the polar opposite of this film and its existence makes me very upset).

I mean just look at this animation! How stunning can you get? Even from Pixar I can’t think of the last time I saw such gorgeous animation from a mainstream studio. It tells so much of the story through those backgrounds and world building. We are immersed in the open wilderness and the Old West from the very beginning and it is breathtaking.

As far as the story goes, for Spirit it is pretty simple. Like Black Beauty, it is the story of a horse named Spirit. We hear a voice-over narration from Matt Damon (a more Old West voice might have been better like a Sam Eliot or someone like that but it works). We then see Spirit get separated from his family, taken by a Custer-like General who thinks he can tame the free spirit out of this horse. Oh how wrong he is! In a lesser movie he would be the villain but he really isn’t here. He’s just a general trying to tame a horse. That’s a different way of looking at the world than Spirit does but not evil.

Spirit then meets a Lakota Native named Little Creek and while he is no more successful in taming Spirit they understand and respect each other better. I really liked the chemistry the 2 had with each other. It was palatable even though it was a horse and a man.

There are other events that happen with the railroad and a female named Rain that all work and are very compelling. Whatever is going on with Spirit in the film it never gets maudlin or preachy. It is bold storytelling at its best. Some don’t care for the Bryan Adams music but I like it. They could have picked something with more of a country vibe but I think it works and the songs are nice.

When I think of The Boss Baby and how devoid of creativity that was and then think of Spirit and how ambitious and beautiful it is, it makes me sad. We have lost something in our desire to sell tickets that I don’t know if we will ever get back again. I hope so but I certainly don’t see it coming back in beautiful 2D anytime soon. It’s really quite sad.

At least we still have Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron to watch and remember the days when Dreamworks animation tried to make art not just money.

And can we please have this on bluray please!!!

Overall Grade- A+

Dreamworks 7: The Road to El Dorado

Some of these Dreamworks reviews I must own I am not looking forward to and some I’ve already reviewed on this blog. The 2000 film The Road to El Dorado would be true on both counts. Back in 2015 I reviewed the film, and I really hated it. I gave it an F, in fact, which is pretty rare for me with animation.

I have now seen it a second time and is it still the “tawdry insulting junk” of my last watch?  Well, yes and no. I still hate it but it has a few more pluses than maybe I admitted on the first watch. Unfortunately, it’s just hard to give a movie a pass that I find wildly racist and misogynistic which is the case with The Road to El Dorado…

Let’s talk about the positives. First of all, the animation, particularly the backgrounds, are beautiful. Every background has a watercolor feel and is rich with layers and color. They clearly did their homework and captured the Mexican landscape and Mayan temples well.

The score is also excellent by Hans Zimmer and it reminds me a bit of his Pirates of the Caribbean scores.

While no Lion King, Elton John does give us some decent songs including the catchy It’s Tough to be a God

So, that’s my positives. Now for the negatives.

I don’t pretend to be an expert on Mayan culture or anything like that but it really bothers me how the native people are portrayed in this film. I get that white worship actually happened, and I get that the sacrificial tribe is a trope seen in many movies like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and the original King Kong. All of that I understand. However, usually when these rituals are portrayed it is with a certain degree of reverence and solemnity. You feel afraid for the white people because the natives have their beliefs and the two groups can’t communicate anything different with each other. The natives aren’t necessarily wrong. They just have different beliefs that put our heroes in peril.

In The Road to El Dorado, they can communicate and the natives are so stupid and the rituals and culture are treated like such a joke it’s hard for me to watch. For instance, in an early scene you see the natives throwing heaps of gold into the water. Even if you buy they had this much gold there is no sense of gravitas or awe at this sacrifice. It is treated like ‘oh those stupid natives’.

The leader of the natives Tannabok is given so many opportunities to see that Tulio and Miguel are bad news and he never suspects or questions. It made him look really stupid and I felt it was demeaning. Meanwhile, the villain of the movie Tzekel-Kan figures out they aren’t Gods and is treated as a sniveling bad guy when I actually related to him the most! Never a good sign.

Part of my other problem with the portrayal of the natives is I find Miguel and Tulio to be irredeemably unlikable. This makes it super awkward when they are worshiped only because of the color of their skin. They are not friendly or kind but real jerks to all involved (they are even annoying and unlikable to each other).  They have no problems stealing the natives treasure and making all kinds of demands. It makes me very uncomfortable.

You are also supposed to be invested in a female love interest for Tulio named Chel. She is supposed to be strong because she figures out the con, but she quickly becomes a puppet for whatever the boys want to do. She turns on her own people and is willing to steal without much discussion or hesitation. She also wears a pretty slinky outfit and at one point clearly has sex with Tulio, which made me very uncomfortable for a Dreamworks film. Her relationship with Tulio was one of many ways she is a flat character ruled by the whims of the male characters. This movie definitely doesn’t pass the Bechtel test that’s for sure! She was a total miss for me.

Like I said, there are some good things about this film but I find the bad to sink any enjoyment I get out of it. It is unpleasant to watch and I at least can’t get over the racism and misogyny on display. If Miguel and Tulio had been more likable  maybe I could have gone along with it but they aren’t and yet they are worshiped? No thank you! Plus, they are never held to account for all the gold they steal and what they are about to do. They ride off into the sunset having had a great adventure. Never mind the chaos you left behind! Ugh

It’s just not my cup of tea.

Overall Grade- D-

Dreamworks 6: Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie

If you have been reading this blog for some time you know I am not often a fan of Dreamworks comedies. The parody style of humor just isn’t my thing. However, every once in a while they produce a Mr Peabody and Sherman that I do like, so I always go in with an open mind (why waste my time if I decide ahead of the movie I’m not going to like it?). Fortunately, their newest film Captain Underpants: the First Epic Movie is such a welcome surprise. It is not only very funny but extremely creative in the animation to boot.

One of the things that makes Captain Underpants special is it was made for a micro-budget of only $38 million! Dreamworks outsourced the film to a separate studio called Mikros Images in Canada as kind of an experiment in more manageable movie-making.  This smaller budget forced the team to be creative with the animation and storytelling and it shows. They even joke about it once during an action scene where the narrator says ‘this would have been very expensive but here’s what would have happened!” LOL.

I was so impressed by the way the movie uses different types of animation to tell the story. It is of course based on the popular books by Dav Pilkey but this isn’t just made for the fans of the books. The main animation has a flat yet 3D effect similar to what we saw from Blue Sky in The Peanuts Movie (an underrated film if you ask me!), but the film doesn’t stop there. It incorporates 2D animation, both sketch and traditional styles, and even has a live action sock puppet sequence! These choices weren’t merely gimmicks but kept the movie feeling fresh and surprising.

The other strength of Captain Underpants is how funny it is. Nicholas Stoller who wrote The Muppets and Storks has upped his game making a hilarious script. It does have a lot of toilet humor and normally I hate that but for whatever reason in this film I laughed. I’ve even seen it twice and both times I’ve laughed (sometimes more than the kids around me. True story!).  I think part of it is the movie goes for broke not holding back. They even have a character named Professor Poopypants and it consistently made me laugh.

I think it also helps that the two lead boys Harold and George are so likable and charming. They have big smiles and all the pranks and silliness they do is to make the kids at their terrible school happy. I loved the creativity of the boys and that they were designing their own comic books and stories. This is a good example for kids who spend too much time consuming entertainment and not creating their own art.

I loved that the two boys were effortlessly diverse- meaning you had a black and white kid and it did not matter at all. It was never mentioned or made a plot point.  They were just friends as they should be. It was also very funny that the greatest trauma in their lives is getting put in separate classes. I remember as a kid anxiously waiting to find out if my friends would be in the same class as me. Harold says “long distance relationships never work out” LOL.

It’s interesting because out of all the characters Captain Underpants is probably the most forgettable part. He is part strict principal and part superhero, which is fun, but he mainly serves as a touch-point for the boys to react off of. I liked the boys so much I was kind of glad they were the main focus.

I really only have 2 small complaints about Captain Underpants. The first is I wish they had used children as the voice actors. Kevin Hart and Thomas Middleditch are fine (Ed Helms as Captain Underpants) but it would have been more immersive if they sounded like children.

In the next movie it would be nice to get to know some of the other kids (you do meet  tattle-tale Melvin voiced by Jordan Peele). Again to use The Peanuts Movie as an example, we get to meet more than just Charlie Brown and Snoopy but the whole gang instead.  Hopefully there will be a Second Epic Movie because I really enjoyed this introduction!

Captain Underpants: the First Epic Movie is made for children. It doesn’t have the winking adults-only humor that I hate in animation. It’s humor for kids but it still made me chuckle. The animation is surprising and inventive and the friendship of the boys gives the whole project heart. Check it out and support this new style of filmmaking from Dreamworks!

Oh and the Weird Al theme song is great!

Overall Grade- A-

Dreamworks 5: Antz

Today we get to look at one of the oddest entries in the Dreamworks Canon- their 1998 film Antz. This film was not only loaded with controversy but has more subplots, characters and ideas than it knows what to do with.

Let’s start with the controversy: After the success of Toy Story in 1995, Pixar began developing their next picture that would revolve around a colony of ants. This became A Bug’s Life. At the same time, executive Jeffrey Katzenberg left Disney in a feud with then CEO Michael Eisner. Then in a very fishy move Dreamworks also developed their own ant movie under Katzenberg’s leadership, Antz.

In my opinion Antz is the inferior film over A Bug’s Life but aside from being ants they are actually quite different. A Bug’s Life is more of a traditional hero narrative where Antz is a hodge-podge of story elements focusing more on the colony than on one particular ant.

The lead character in Antz is a neurotic bug named Z voiced by Woody Allen. There are a lot of jokes meant for adults in this movie, and many of these come from Allen with his deadpan style of humor. It feels like such an odd choice to have Woody Allen waxing philosophical in a kid’s ant movie. I’m used to him as more of an R rated figure and so it’s a bit jarring to hear his voice and type of ramblings in a Dreamworks movie. However, the movie does move away from him for long stretches with subplots involving a soldier named Weaver, a princess named Bala and a worker ant named Azteka.

On the other hand, the main strength of Antz is how nutty and strange it is. It combines 8 different kinds of movies into one. It’s at all times a  romcom, war, dystopian, road trip, fantasy, prison escape and children’s movie all in one. This can make it unpredictable and fun to watch. I never know quite what it is going to do or what is happening next.

There are also a ton of characters in Antz. I counted 16 named characters with vocal work.  And not only do they have all of these characters, but they all look the same with the brown color palate. Most I wouldn’t be able to tell apart if it wasn’t for the voice actors.

While it can be fun to have all these plot points and characters. it can also be overwhelming. It’s tonally all over the place with a massive battle scene happening one minute and  playful banter at an ant landfill the next.

Some of the rules of the world building also don’t make sense. The ants are kept under strict routines and follow orders yet there is a long sequence at a bar where ants drink quite a bit including the princess (she’s sneaking but still). What kind of workers paradise is this place? I don’t know but it is just kind of all over the place.

With all the characters there are so many relationships and friendships to keep track. Because they all look the same the only way I knew who was who was the vocal work (one time when the celebrity vocal work actually helped Dreamworks). Still, for a kid it could be a very confusing film to watch.

The message also becomes muddled. Is it anti-war? Is it teamwork? Is it individualism or collectivism? Is it never give up and forgive others? Is it revolt against tyrants? All of that is in there but it feels very confusing.

A part of me wants to give Antz a smile worthy just out of shear strangeness. In a world of cookie-cutter movies at least it tries a bunch of weird stuff. It does score some laughs and is moderately entertaining but it is also a jumbled mess of a film. It’s not very rewatchable or visually appealing to me.

I am definitely much more of A Bug’s Life girl but I’m not going to give that many smiles to Dreamworks so this one is just barely entertaining enough to get one.

Overall Grade- C+

Dreamworks 4: Over the Hedge

One of the frustrating things about reviewing Dreamworks films is many of their movies come close to being good but can’t quite pull it off. Particularly their comedies often have great casts, promising premises, inviting animation but the jokes fall flat leaving me annoyed. Over the Hedge, made in 2006, is no exception to this rule.

In fact, Over the Hedge is particularly frustrating because it starts out with such potential! I kind of wish it had just been a 30 minute short because that first 30 minutes is great. Unfortunately,  it can’t hold that momentum for the 83 minutes run-time and becomes a generic at best kids movie.

The set up is a raccoon named RJ becomes indebted to a bear for stealing his food. To pay the debt he must replace the food in a weeks time. He stumbles upon a bunch of forest creatures waking up from hibernation and begins to school them on the glories of human food consumption. This sequence is the highlight of the movie:

This food glory sequence is funny because it is relevant social commentary. It still makes me laugh how it shows driving and dressing like food. From an alien perspective (or animal) we really do focus way too much on food in America. There’s no doubt about it and that is funny.

However, once this setup is over the rest of Over the Hedge becomes a Toy Story rip-off. Verne the turtle is Woody and RJ is the new hip Buzz. You have a ton of other characters voiced by famous comedians but they aren’t really given anything to do (Plus they repeat the same jokes over and over again). Bruce Willis, Garry Shandling, Steve Carell, William Shatner, and Wanda Sykes are all wasted in their roles.

The last act of the movie is the animals trying to steal food from a woman who has a heavily fortified house. Why wouldn’t they just pick another house? It’s a subdivision so they have lots to chose from. It’s clearly just to manufacture tension and a dramatic car chase scene at the end. Instead, it all feels like filling time, like they were stretching 30 minutes of an idea into over an hour, which is probably accurate.

It is very predictable and nothing really engages the viewer. We know RJ is lying to the crew and exactly when he is going to feel bad, be exposed and make up with everyone. Formula movies are fine but there needs to be more to entertain than in this.

I also think it is a little weird the characters spend the entire movie stealing from the humans and are never really punished for this. Not the greatest example for kids!

As a plus the animation is pretty decent and kids will be moderately entertained by it. It’s not awful but not very memorable either.  I would say watch the first 20 minutes and then find something else to do with your day!

Overall Grade- C-

Dreamworks 3: Prince of Egypt

Today in my 3rd Dreamworks film we are going to look at what in my eyes is their one and only masterpiece- The Prince of Egypt. Not only was it their first animated film but it hits on every level. The animation is stunning. The music both score and songs is nearly perfect. The story is classic but told in a fresh, awe-inspiring way. It just all works and it is one of my favorite movies.

So, we all know the story of the 10 Commandments and Moses from the Bible. Charlton Heston played Moses in one of the most famous movies ever made (that I love) and there have been other versions over the years. It’s the most cinematic Bible story because it has so many layers. There’s obviously religion, but culture, miracles, family, love and more. However, what I love about Prince of Egypt is it tackles the story with a spirit of reverence. While certainly full of drama, the writers chose to forgo most of the vibrato of earlier versions and in return gave us an intimate portrayal of 2 brothers and their goings-on with God.

Prince of Egypt starts out by establishing the 2 sides of Rameses and Moses. We get Deliver Us from the Hebrew slaves with Moses being left in the basket by his mother and then Rameses and Moses as teens racing in chariots.

This establishes the rivalry between brothers but also the humility that will become Moses and the pride of Rameses. It is here that Pharaoh first tells Rameses to “not become the weak link”, which leads to much of his pride (such a great script!).

I’m not a huge fan of the celebrity voice casting in the Dreamworks films and some of it is distracting here but I love Val Kilmer and Ralph Fiennes as Moses and Rameses. I also love they got Amick Byram to sing for Val in a seamless transition (and the amazing Brian Stokes Mitchell to sing for Danny Glover). Well done! These voice actors feel like brothers but also like they are somehow from different worlds. It is perfect!

Of course, Moses finds out about his Hebrew heritage and the way that is handled is so good. You get the mania he must be feeling especially when he sees the hieroglyphic art depicting what his father Pharaoh did to the Hebrew slaves. Sandra Bullock is a little modern as Miriam here but I still think it works for the role.

Stephen Schwartz is certainly no stranger to religious musicals with Godspell and Children of Eden but I love his songs for Prince of Egypt even more. Aside from Playing with the Big Boys Now I love every song here. I love the vocal performances, harmonies, choral hooks, everything. Hans Zimmer’s score is one of his best full of quiet moments of wonder even in scenes like the plagues.

One of the highlights of the film is the iconic burning bush sequence. It is the best I’ve seen of this moment on film. Again, it has such a spirit of reverence and peace about it. You understand why Moses would be overwhelmed and yet it is small and ephemeral. It’s exactly how I imagine it really happened.

After he is called, Moses goes to confront Rameses, his brother, and we get the plagues which is presented perfectly. You can feel the tension between them personally grow with each new plague.

And then we get the parting of the Red Sea. I mean what is there to say but perfection. It is some of the most jaw dropping animation I’ve ever seen. Some don’t like there is a shark in the Red Sea but I kind of feel sorry for them. That they can’t just get caught up in the moment of sound, color, and story. It’s breathtaking

The only real flaw in Prince of Egypt is Playing with the Big Boys now which feels like an attempt to pander to kids and doesn’t fit with the tone and feel of the rest of the movie. I was looking on rottentomatoes and the rotten reviews said it wasn’t ‘fun’ enough. It’s those kind of morons that get us Guy Like You in Hunchback or Big Boys in this. Shame on you!

Anyway, I love this movie. I watched it today trying to analyze it and be objective (and I think I was) but I really don’t see many problems. It has great characters, story, music, animation and everything else. My only regret is that Shrek came along and sent Dreamworks away from making films like Prince of Egypt and down the path of lame comedies. Sigh…

At least they started out with a bang!

Overall Grade A+

 

 

 

 

Dreamworks 2: Shrek

So, I’m just going to rip the band-aid off guys- I don’t like Shrek. Is it awful? No but on the whole I don’t think it is a very good movie, and I will attempt explain in this review why.

It all started for me back in 2001 when I first saw Shrek and thought it was pretty funny. Particularly Eddie Murphy as Donkey made me laugh and since I wasn’t high on Disney then the parody of Disney films was funny. With anticipation I got it on vhs eager to repeat my positive experience, but to my surprise when I watched it again I realized- it wasn’t that funny any more.

Truly great comedies I can watch again and again laughing with each watch. For example, Monty Python and the Holy Grail I have seen I can’t tell you how many times and I still laugh. Even other parody films like Airplane! still make me laugh. From way back in 2001 that was never the case for me with Shrek.

And unfortunately when you take out the humor there isn’t that much going for it. The animation isn’t that great. Some of the voice work is shoddy (cough Cameron Diaz cough) and the story is actually pretty pedestrian and predictable.

Now that you all hate me let’s talk more about the movie.

Shrek is about an ogre in a fairytale land who likes living in his swamp by himself. One day he gets besieged by fairytale characters that have been evicted from the land by the evil Lord Farquaad. In order to get rid of said characters Shrek makes a deal that if he can rescue the Princess Fiona then he will clear his land.

Shrek goes on the quest with a sidekick donkey who drives him crazy but they put up with each other and they find her pretty quickly. Then the Princess and Shrek form a bond and she it turns out has a curse where she turns into an ogre every night. She must be kissed by her true love to break the spell. Fortunately at the end Shrek storms the castle and admits his love and she ends up remaining an ogre as her truest form.

I don’t know if you noticed reading that description that even with all its parody Shrek follows the basic princess movie formula perfectly. You have the damsel in distress that is rescued, cooky sidekick,  evil villain, forced marriage,  dramatic declaration of love and the breaking of a curse. I think this is why the jokes really aren’t that funny on rewatch because the story surrounding the jokes all becomes rote quite quickly. Real humor that lasts isn’t just parodying things of the moment but they tap into universal truths and themes any age can relate to. Again to use Monty Python as an example, their skits and movies will be funny for generations because they aren’t merely parodying but they are making fun of timeless institutions like marriage, love, warfare, sex, sports, and more.

The funniest scene in Shrek that still gets a laugh out of me is the gingerbread interrogation. This is because it is making fun of torture and torture scenes in movies we still often see today and it was separate from the more pedestrian narrative. It feels more surprising and relevant than the other humor.

As more of an adult, I also notice things that make me a little uncomfortable in Shrek like Snow White being described as “not easy”, Robin Hood making a joke about he likes to get laid, and Shrek teasing Lord Farquaad about his size and “do you think maybe he is compensating for something”. I hate that kind of humor in fairytales marketed to children.

I like Eddie Murphy as Donkey and Mike Meyers is fine but as I hinted at earlier Cameron Diaz is not a strong vocal performer. Her line readings sound the same whether she is happy, sad, angry, whatever. I really wish they had gone with a professional voice actress.

Other issues with the movie is the soundtrack. It has not aged well. Using pop music of the era by Smash Mouth and others immediately dates the movie. It would have been so much funnier if they had used the music to parody the Disney musical. This seems like such an obvious choice it is kind of baffling. Plus, the oddly sober choice of ‘Hallelujah’ thrown into the film does not fit at all.

The animation in Shrek is fine for 2001 but it is nowhere near the quality of Monsters Inc from Pixar that yea.  In that film, Sully’s fur was so lush and vibrant and the world building still feels fresh and fun. There is no scene, for example,  in Shrek that mirrors in animation quality the scene racing through the doors at the end of Monsters Inc. Not even close.

I also resent Shrek because I feel its success has really hurt animation. Ever since it became a phenomenon we have so many movies that put humor ahead of story, caring more about cheap cultural references and celebrity voice casting than crafting real art. Imagine in an alternate world if Prince of Egypt had been the Dreamworks’ film to really take off? Animation would be in a much better state than it currently is.

Oh what might have been…

Overall Grade- C-

Dreamworks 1: The Boss Baby

So I announced a few days ago that I am going to be starting a Dreamworks series of reviews. In that post I gave a schedule for the reviews because I am not going to review them chronologically. However, I haven’t been able to post my Shrek review yet so I am making a change and having their latest release The Boss Baby as my first in the series. You guys all know how little I was looking forward to The Boss Baby, so let’s tear off this band-aid and talk about it.

The Boss Baby is extremely loosely based on a picture book by Marla Frazee. Since seeing it I’ve been trying to imagine the board meeting where this concept was pitched. “We are going to make a movie about a baby that’s a boss. It will be a big hit”. These people are going to devote years of effort and millions of dollars and yet somehow they decide a talking baby movie is a great idea? How does that happen?

Anyway, how does the movie turn out? There are positives: the lead character of The Boss Baby is a little boy named Tim who leads an idealistic life with a wild imagination. Occasionally the movie will dive into this imagination and those segments are bright, colorful and a lot of fun.

The animation on the whole is as good as we have come to expect from Dreamworks. I also enjoyed the music from Hans Zimmer and Steve Mazzaro and there are a few nice moments of emotion between the two brothers.

You see little Tim’s ideal world is disrupted by a new baby brother who is delivered in a taxi cab, wears a suit and talks like Alec Baldwin. Tim’s parents are completely fine with their baby looking like this and arriving in this way, which is odd. It is such a strange way to start off a movie but it gets even stranger.

It turns out that in the world of this movie babies are made on an assembly line with some going to families and others to “management”. The lucky chosen babies for Baby Corp are taken directly from the assembly line to a cubicle in a vast office building where they will spend the whole of their lives. This seemed incredibly sad to me. I hated corporate work-life so much that I can’t imagine being stuck in a cubicle from the time you are born and never being mothered or loved. All they want is the great corner office. This felt sooooo strange coming from a baby. And this is never really resolved in the film. At the end Baby Corp still exists and the babies are still working in those cubicles…Yikes

A lot of the appeal of this film will depend on how funny you think it is to see Alec Baldwin take his Jack Donaghy shtick from 30 Rock into a baby. There are a few decent laughs but for me it was more annoying than humorous. At the very least it is extremely repetitive and the only other humor is of the toilet variety.

The other weird aspect of The Boss Baby is the idea of babies competing with puppies for love. At one point in the film, Boss Baby presents the babies with a chart showing babies losing love to puppies and how that is hurting the bottom line of Baby Corp. His goal is to spy on Tim’s parents who work for Puppy Corp and find out about a new breed they are releasing.

On one level this plot could be effective as children often fear losing love of their parents when a new sibling comes into the picture. Unfortunately here the wrong message is shown because a finite or limited amount of love is shown and never really resolved by the film. In real life of course, love doesn’t have limits. We can love 2 kids and then we get another and we can love 3. Love expands that way. So the idea that puppies will steal love from babies is just not true and could be kind of confusing for kids. Children need to know there is plenty of love for them not that there are limits.

But all of that wouldn’t matter if it was funny or engaging in other ways but The Boss Baby just isn’t. It quickly falls into a poorly executed Toy Story/Secret Life of Pets copy. After all, you have the main character leading the perfect life and then the newcomer disrupting it. They hate each other and then must learn to work together. Sound familiar…

Particularly the last 30 minutes go completely off the rails with a boring villain, chases, races, and a trip to Vegas. It just doesn’t work and becomes pretty generic and boring.

Here is my youtube review. I would really appreciate it if you gave it a like or subscribed to my channel if you haven’t yet:

But I don’t know if I could ever personally get over the weird premise and a baby that’s a boss. It’s just not for me. If the trailers appeal to you then maybe you will enjoy it. I definitely think it goes with Home and Shark Tale as one of the worst Dreamworks films.

Overall Grade- D+ and yes I’d rather watch Rock Dog than this…Get it together Dreamworks!!