There is much about the Boss Baby franchise that eludes me entirely, but that certainly doesn’t mean that the first film didn’t cash in enough to warrant more than one effort to entertain… whoever this entertains. I don’t even remember the theory behind the intelligent babies and their cabal, or if there is one, and The Boss Baby: Family Business doesn’t care. It jumps ahead to a time when Theodore Templeton (Alec Baldwin) and Tim Templeton (James Marsden) are adults, and Tim’s daughter is working at Baby Corp (or whatever).
Something sinister is on the horizon and the world once again needs Theo and Tim to come to the rescue, which means some magic needs to de-age them sufficiently to infiltrate the new, private schools that are popping up around the world. Run by Dr. Armstrong (Jeff Goldblum), these schools are up to something, but no one knows what, and it’s up to Baby Corp to figure out what’s going on.
The franchise itself is shtick comedy taken to extremes, which suits the writer/director combo, Michael McCullen and Tom McGrath, perfectly. The former SNL writer, and scribe of SNL-connected films (Austin Powers, Undercover Brother), together with the director of the Madagascar films makes for a wealth of shtick experience.
The problem, at least in this film, is that the shtick is worn and things are best when we are mostly ignoring it, but we can’t rid ourselves of it. There are laughs to be found and the characters have heart, but the best moments of this one mostly just make you wish the talent involved were working on something with a better framework. The rest leans so heavily on the premise that it rarely builds into a place where actual comedy can shine through. “It’s funny because they’re babies,” can work for a skit, but if that doesn’t go anywhere it’s hard to be distracted enough to avoid responding, “Is it though?” Baby ninjas, for example, are a bit of a laugh for a few seconds, but minute after minute of slapstick goofiness that just keeps looking over its shoulder at you while it nudges you on the arm with a, “Huh? Huh? It’s funny because they’re babies!” is tiring.
The shtick needs characters and while everyone involved does as much as they can, only Baldwin really gets much to work with. He delivers, has some solid lines, and easily convinces you that you’d watch 30-second Boss Baby clips forever, but it doesn’t effectively carry an entire film. Goldblum has a few scenes that stand out, and if the same sensibilities behind him revealing himself as a character with no control won out over the rest of the film, things might have been very different. There’s more to enjoy in Armstrong pounding sugar than almost anything else, and mostly because it manages purposeful silliness.
For all that the plot tries to move on (the brothers are actually old, much of the drive comes from Tim’s older daughter), it leaves most things oversimplified and moves from one gag to another without much confidence in its audience. Armstrong, and the school “bully” that Tim and his daughter have to contend with, are largely “bad” because they cackle and their mouths open to unrealistic degrees. Most of the characters “feel” things because they say so, the grand machinations make sense because Armstrong declares they are so, and things are “sinister” because they’re tall.
It adds up to something that is almost forgettable by design, with the fun not being particularly interesting, and the rare interesting moments not particularly connected to the fun.