April 8th 2017


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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Euthanasia: shutting up by shouting down

EUTHANASIA British actress tells it like it is

CANBERRA OBSERVED Move on 18C a return to a classic Liberal position

EDITORIAL Kowtowing to China is a serious mistake

ENERGY Hazelwood is vital to Australia's power supply

FOREIGN AFFAIRS UK sets out on the bumpy road to Brexit

QUEENSLAND Women have a victory over the abortion industry

BEHIND THE NEWS Ataturk and modern Turkey out of the shadow

WEST AUSTRALIAN ELECTION Unions and Emily's Listers reap WA Labor's harvest

LITERATURE The Napoleon of Notting Hill: Chesterton for today

HUMOUR Excerpts from the revised and updated edition of Forget's Dictionary of Inaccurate Facts, Furphys and Falsehoods

MUSIC Program notes: Jazz's two-tiered appeal

CINEMA The Boss Baby: Tots that mean business

BOOK REVIEW End to history nowhere in sight

BOOK REVIEW That sinking feeling

LETTERS

POETRY

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CINEMA
The Boss Baby: Tots that mean business


by Symeon J. Thompson

News Weekly, April 8, 2017

The Boss Baby is the latest animated children’s movie from DreamWorks, the studio behind the Shrek and Kung Fu Panda franchises. It is an amusing and lighthearted film with some elements of real wit and heart that make it enjoyable, even if it is not as rich or clever as some of its competition. Cough, Pixar, cough.

Timothy Leslie Templeton (voice of Miles Bakshi, with the adult narrator Tim voiced by Tobey Maguire) is a young boy with an active imagination and a “perfect” life, which he believes is due to him being an only child with loving parents. His parents Ted (voice of Jimmy Kimmel) and Janice (voice of Lisa Kudrow) are happy to play along with his games and give him plenty of time. But all this changes with the addition of a new baby brother.

Tim is suspicious of the baby. He’s convinced he saw him arrive in a taxi, and the fact that the baby is wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase adds to his feelings that something is not quite right. The baby proceeds to take over the house, taking away the time that Tim’s parents would spend with him, leaving them exhausted. He becomes the Boss.

One night Tim hears the phone ringing, but it’s not the house phone. On investigating, he discovers that the ringing phone is in the baby’s room and that the baby’s taking a call. Tim’s baby brother is in fact the Boss Baby (voice of Alec Baldwin), a middle manager from Baby Corp, who’s in town on a secret mission. The Boss Baby threatens Tim – if Tim doesn’t stay out of his way, he’ll make sure he’s fired from his family.

The outraged, and anxious, Tim decides to get proof of the Boss Baby’s conniving, convinced that if he doesn’t, the Boss Baby will take over his family and he’ll be left with nothing. He decides to get a recording of the Boss Baby speaking to show his parents.

While spying on a meeting the Boss Baby is having with his team – the bright little Staci (voice of ViviAnn Yee), the Triplets (voice of Eric Bell jnr) and the muscle man Jimbo (voice of David Soren) – Tim learns what they’re up to. The team has been sent to discover what Puppy Co, the company that all their “parents” work for, is up to. It seems that puppies have been stealing all the love that babies would have got and that Baby Corp is concerned that Puppy Co’s new secret product will put the baby business out of business.

Tim gets his proof, but loses it in dramatic circumstances. He tries to get rid of the Boss Baby, but is stopped just in time by his parents, who ground him. By this time, however, the Boss Baby realises he needs Tim’s help. With the help of a magic pacifier he takes Tim to Baby Corp’s headquarters and explains that as soon as he completes his mission, he’ll be gone and Tim will have his parents all to himself again.

Thus the two former enemies become reluctant allies. They will find out what Puppy Co chief executive Francis Francis (voice of Steve Buscemi) is up to, allowing Boss Baby to write a memo that will help Baby Corp to come up with a counter strategy.

The movie is based on Marla Frazee’s acclaimed 2010 picture book that took as its theme how a newborn baby is like a boss, holding all night meetings and making all manner of demands. The filmmakers have chosen to expand on that by depicting what that might be like for an imaginative older sibling – and then ramping it up again, turning it into a race against the clock to stop a villain’s plans for world domination.

The addition of the older brother is a welcome addition, as it focuses the story on a child’s experience, rather than on that of the parents. It deals with the fear a child might have that he can be replaced, and counters it by showing how having a sibling can be an enriching experience. The adult Tim’s narration clearly frames the story as one with a moral, a moral that becomes clear at the end.

The ramping up, on the other hand, is part of a trend in Hollywood movies where the stakes are seemingly always about world domination or destruction. This isn’t a bad thing in itself, but can be a sign of lazy storytelling, as the risk of apocalypse redirects creativity away from little things like character development.

The film shines in its portrayal, and indeed celebration, of a child’s imagination. Tim’s intergalactic missions with Ensign T-Rex, or his explorations in darkest Africa, are vividly realised and a reminder of just how wonderful a thing playtime can be.

Symeon J. Thompson is a member of the Film Critics’ Circle of Australia (FCCA).




























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