Directed By Tom McGrath
Starring – Alec Baldwin, James Marsden, Amy Sedaris
The Plot – The Templeton brothers (Baldwin, Marsden) have become adults and drifted away from each other, but a new boss baby (Sedaris) with a cutting-edge approach is about to bring them together again, all the while inspiring a new family business.
Rated PG for rude humor, mild adult language and some action
– Improved animation. As to where the previous film bored with blandness with regards to its aesthetic presentation, the sequel from Dreamworks Animation is an ambitiously luminous step forward, combining enough influence in color and environmental depth that finally has it competing with the big boys. What’s most ideal here is the volume and lifelike consistency from a barrage of shadowplay, shiny surface reflections, and even subtly in cloud movements to play towards the impeccable details that continuously impressed me throughout. In addition, the abundance of warm, vibrant colors painted a more extravagant sequel in all of its lavish three-dimensional encompassing, all the while feeding into the exotic appeal of the movie’s adventure element, which visually conveys a artistic ambiance far from the tranquility that we’re saddled with in the real world. It offers perhaps the only instance where I’m glad that this film is simultaneously receiving a big screen release to correspond with its same day Peacock delivery, if even just for another animated offering to immerse ourselves wholeheartedly in the cotton candy that adorns as far as the eyes can see.
– Exaggerated cinematography. What works terrifically about the movie’s presentation is the enthusiastic movements of the lens that play vicariously to the rambunctious nature of its pediatric characters. It’s important that no swift movement compromises the clarity or integrity of the sequences, often being followed by slow, single shot releases that serve as the visual punchline to the scene’s consistent energy and character’s dry deliveries. It helps that this aspect with the visual storytelling doesn’t overstay its welcome to near cliche’d levels of repetition, instead saving its ferocity for the moments of the transitional sequences that combine storytelling elements from the past, present and future accordingly, giving us a reflective insight into the minds of its madmen protagonists continuously.
– Casting commitment. “Family Business” could easily be the mere definition of a paycheck film for talents like Baldwin, Marsden, and Sedaris, but the faithful investment that each of them gives to their respective characters allows the movie to maintain intrigue in the eyes of its audience, all the while carving out some stellar work between them that consistently bottles the family dynamic of their chemistry. Once again, Baldwin is definitely the standout for me, committing to a dryness in delivery through some truly silly lines of dialogue that inevitably breed laughter because of the balance. Sedaris herself is a solid addition, especially with her audible emphasis periodically channeling the spontaneity of teenage embodiment. As for Marsden, his talents don’t lend themselves to anything challenging or complex about his deliveries, but he’s often responsible for the allowance of heart in the movie’s tonal capacities, that allow this film transcendence from a slapstick comedy to an occasionally meaningful family caper.
– Solid antagonist. I intentionally saved this performance for a section of his own, because the work of national treasure, Jeff Goldblum, is not only responsible for my single favorite character throughout this film, but also the proper boost in adrenaline that gives the story’s conflict wings of exploration. This is hilariously resonant because Goldblum’s typical soft deliveries more than cohesively illustrate the many quirks of the character, and offer for Jeff that rare occasion where he’s the evil character that can’t be reasoned with. His intentions are even sound, zeroing in on an internal longing that motivates much of his intention to world domination, bringing with him a relatively dark and sinister plot to a kids movie, that is refreshing for a 90’s kid like myself, when kids movies played fearless.
– Measured pacing. Admittedly, this movie is a little long while clocking in at 107 minutes (10 minutes longer than its predecessor), but what’s surprising is it never feels that way because of the consistency of the pacing, which initially gets off to a running start with an introduction that wastes little to no time throwing us back into this imaginative world. It helps that unlike the first film, this one doesn’t have to explain the rules or backstory of its characters, instead providing the link to the past that the duo of brothers explore in the newest, youngest family link. From there, I felt that the exposition was relatively fluffy, especially considering there’s much to explain about this conflict and primary antagonist. It keeps its hooks into the meat of the story at all times, bordering a breezy consistency that persists without repeating, making this an easier sit than its trivial predecessor.
– Inconsistent humor. The comedic material is definitely a step up this time, refusing to settle as easily for the same low brow hanging bodily and toilet humor that soaked up the entirety of the material in the first film. Unfortunately, there’s still very little about these gags that are even occasionally innovative or creative to the delight of this unique structural device. Sure, there are a couple of observational laughs, mainly in these quick glimpses of visual extremes, which are an ensuing credit to the ambition of the animation, but every decorated sound effect or lukewarm punchline underwhelms in its overabundance of intention towards kid audiences, leaving very little wiggle room of cross-audience appeal for the adults forced to endure this mostly unfunny mess.
– Illogical instances. Kids movies aren’t the benchmark for consistency in storytelling logic, but even in a gimmick this extreme in believability, the movie can’t even commit to the rules it sets up on its own accord. In the first film, only the brother knew of his sibling’s adult voice in a baby body, but in this film everyone can hear an adult Marsden vocalizing in a child’s body, and no one asks a single question about it. Speaking of that body, why is the older brother not made a baby when he and his younger brother sip the exact same elixir that to de-age their respective bodies? Could it be only because the older brother was exactly this old in the previous film? If so, this movie is obviously unconfident in the capabilities of its audience to comprehend him as a baby, considering we’ve never seen him as one. Finally, there’s measures in this film that don’t line up with the consistency doled out in the previous film. For instance, when the end of the movie is implied to be a dream inside of Tim’s head, yet here we are still presented with Baby Corp and every other element in real life that was a figment of that first film. I guess this is the part where someone says “It’s a kid movie, so who cares”.
– Shamefully derivative. Throughout the progression of this narrative, I couldn’t escape the feeling that this film was subliminal advertising for two better films that it continuously rips off. The first is obviously “Toy Story”, with the idea that a generation of films have ripped off, where adults are ignorant to the madness taking shape underneath their own roofs. But the overwhelming one for me is strangely “Back to the Future”, especially considering this movie quite literally steals mirrored scenes from that classic, like the dinner table scene where Marty McFly meets Lorraine’s parents, or his grandparents. It’s even structured entirely the same way here, resulting in the girl’s parents remarking how strange Ted is for the behavior he elicits in their company. It always bothers me when an animated movie does this, and think they can get away with it without the audience catching on. Unfortunately for them, I can sniff out a Back to the Future reference with very little relevance, and this film stinks from it.
– Overlaying soundtrack. To say that the musical cues that serenaded each transition scene were more than a little distracting to the integrity of the narrative, would be a complete understatement. So instead, I will say that not only are the volume controls alarmingly blaring to the point that they’re overriding actual lines of dialogue in the film, but the musical choices themselves are the mere definition of the term topical selections, adding nothing of substance to enhance the scene, and instead only serving as a series of audible gags of nostalgia to trick audiences into have a fun time. What’s even sadder is that the great Hans Zimmer was one of two composers to work on this reheated sludge, which relied more on record sales and downloads over the integrity of the artist, who could’ve really supplanted something original and adventurous to the dissection of these scenes. Instead, we’re treated to an uninspiring series of tracks that might as well be the latest installment of a Kidz Bop commercial, especially considering the tracks themselves only play for around ten seconds apiece.
My Grade: 5/10 or D+