Top-class animation and some wildly imaginative scenes from the DreamWorks animation crew make The Boss Baby: Family Business an enjoyable watch for animation fans. But the weak and maudlin storyline is still a letdown after the acerbic wit of the 2017 original.
Like that film, a dense plot which traverses a number of storylines will confuse children, although the breakneck pace and sheer lunacy of the action will probably keep them happy. Adult guardians who were pleasantly surprised to find the sophisticated wit of part one a hoot will be disappointed by the sweet and sentimental nature of the sequel.
Part one was a wacky story about a young boy and his baby brother who are transported to the benevolent Babycorp corporation as part of a scheme to stop cute puppies taking attention away from children. In doing so, the boy learns to stop becoming jealous of his newly arrived sibling.
Part two begins with the kids now fully grown. The older Tim (James Marsden) is a sensitive dad with two children of his own, Tabitha and the newborn Tina (Amy Sedaris), while original Boss Baby Ted (Alec Baldwin, back from the first film) is a successful business tycoon.
This time it’s baby Tina who turns out to be the Boss Baby, and she uses a special potion to make dad and uncle turn into kids again so that they can infiltrate a school which plans to remove parents from the world. Much of the overstuffed plot features Tim trying to reconnect with Tabitha as she grows into adolescence and starts to reject him.
The animation is top-notch, especially the faces, which are highly expressive for 3D computer animation. There’s a sneaky joke hidden in just about every shot, a testament to the imagination of the animation team, while a sequence in which Tim and daughter Tabitha “go inside the music” to help Tabitha sing a song for a school performance has all the visual ingredients of a traditional Disney animation.
It’s a shame that the good ideas weren’t put at the service of a better story. The Boss Baby flouted the conventions of animated films with its uncompromising edge, but the sequel revels in them.
The clichéd way that Tim reconnects with both his elder brother and daughter is irritating, and seems out of place amid the mayhem, while the main story about the rogue school seems contrived.
Still, parents watching with their children should find the craziness diverting enough.
This article was first published in South China Morning Post.