Immediately after we watched the trailer for DreamWorks’ upcoming animated film The Boss Baby, Samantha whispered into the darkness of the theater: “I have a lot of questions.” Maddy had questions, too. As best as we could tell, this was a movie about a seven-year-old named Tim who is jealous of the attention his parents are giving to a talking baby (voiced by Alec Baldwin) who runs a corporation that wages a shadow war on puppies.
Judge for yourself:
Our initial queries haunted us long after we finished watching Hidden Figures, the terrific feature-length film that followed the trailer. In fact, the shadow of Boss Baby hung over the entire experience of having gone to the theater in the first place. As we solemnly walked to the car, we peppered each other with questions about the world, the premise, the sartorial choices, and the very existential fabric of The Boss Baby. These were not idle questions; they were urgent demands on our sanity.
After all, this is a movie that suggests that love is a finite resource and that we are running out of it. As journalists like to say on Twitter, huge if true.
Our questions are below. Please ponder them with us:
1) According to Wikipedia, Tobey Maguire plays an adult version of Tim. Why add an additional framing device onto a film that is already overwhelmed with plots and subplots?
2) We asked Google Home to tell us more about The Boss Baby and it described Tim as a “delightfully unreliable narrator.” How unreliable, exactly? Does the baby actually talk or is Alec Baldwin’s voice a psychological projection of Tim’s fears of being displaced? If the latter, what is “delightful” about that?
3) In the trailer, we learn that the eponymous Boss Baby works for a corporation called Baby Corp. Let’s talk about Baby Corp., shall we? Who built the physical facilities for Baby Corp., shown in the trailer shortly before the two-minute mark? Other babies?
4) If Baby Corp. is a corporation, are there shareholders who are aware that they own stock in an enterprise run by a talking baby and apparently staffed by hundreds of other babies in cubicles (1:56)? How do they dodge child labor laws?
5) Is the Boss Baby the only preternaturally intelligent baby? The events of the trailer suggest that he is, although we do catch a brief glimpse of the aforementioned cubicle babies. Even with the Boss Baby’s design and managerial skills, how would Baby Corp. be constructed?
6) And—most baffling of all—what purpose does Baby Corp. serve? Do they monitor the distribution of love, which is treated as a resource in the Baby Boss cinematic universe (see the pie chart at 1:56)?
7) From Wikipedia descriptions and other marketing coverage for the film—but fascinatingly, not from the trailer itself—we’ve learned that puppies have also found a way to organize collectively, via Puppy Co., a company led by Francis E. Francis (a dog voiced by Steve Buscemi). The existence of Puppy Co. is even more baffling, for all the same reasons as Baby Corp., but multiplied because puppies don’t even have thumbs.
8) Why is Baby Corp. corporatized, but Puppy Co. isn't?
FOLLOW THE MONEY $$$ ---> XX
9) The Boss Baby tells us that babies “aren’t getting as much love as [they] used to,” because they’re now in competition with puppies. Why is this battle only now coming to a head? Puppies aren’t new. Babies aren’t new. Are Baby Corp. and Puppy Co. new? What led to their founding and subsequent rivalry? Will there be a Baby Boss prequel to provide this necessary background?
10) Why is Puppy Co. hidden in the marketing material and left out of the trailer? Is DreamWorks aware that this film already has too many elements, and that admitting the existence of one more would be too much?
11) Why is the Boss Baby wearing a puppy disguise in the trailer (1:44)? Presumably this is an attempt to sneak into Puppy Co., and within the trailer, this disguise is apparently good enough to fool a nearby puppy. But aren’t these dogs supposed to be intelligent enough to run a company? Why is one dog depicted as a simple butt-sniffer and another as a capable guard dog in a security uniform (1:45)? Are some dogs enlightened and others not?
12) Can the babies and the puppies hear each other or communicate in any way? We know the puppies will speak in the film, because voice actors have been cast—unless said actors have just recorded panting and barking noises for their dog characters, or they do Foley work for them. It’s unlikely, we admit, but The Boss Baby has led us to question everything.
13) We’re still caught on the Boss Baby being able to speak. In the original book, written and illustrated by Marla Frazee, the Boss Baby notably “never ever said a single word that made any sense at all.” The film already takes so many liberties with the book—e.g. the wholesale invention of a bizarre puppy vs. baby civil war—but why concoct a premise that directly contradicts a central feature of the source material?
(This question may have an answer. According to a USA Today exclusive sneak peek at the film, director Tom McGrath just liked the idea of the contrast between a little baby and a gravelly voice: “Here’s this movie with this adorable kid and Alec Baldwin’s voice coming out of him.”)
13b) How big is the private island that Marla Frazee bought with the money from her DreamWorks licensing deal?
14) So… is the Boss Baby actually speaking, or is it in Tim’s imagination? If the latter, then why does the Boss Baby have the ability to talk even when Tim isn’t around to see it (e.g. at the baby board meeting seen at the start of the trailer)?
15) Is the Boss Baby’s suit literal or figurative? At one point, the parents acknowledge the briefcase, which would seem to suggest that the suit is also literal. But, if that’s the case, why don’t Tim’s parents find it odd? Are they dressing the Boss Baby?
16) Why does Tim keep humiliating the boss baby in the trailer? Specifically, what's the deal with the sailor suits? Are they representative of larger questions about masculinity and sexuality?
17) It seems clear already that Tim will need years of therapy to recuperate from this experience. How is Tobey Maguire’s adult version of Tim currently faring? Is telling this story a way to exorcise its power over him? We’re concerned.
18) What does Tim mean by “I will help you, but just to get rid of you” (1:30)? Where will the baby go? And what’s stopping the Boss Baby from leaving Tim’s home at any time? What is the nature of his “mission” from Baby Corp.? Isn’t he the boss (baby)? Why couldn’t he send someone else to do this? (And we’re back to one of our original questions: is the Boss Baby the only preternaturally intelligent baby working at Baby Corp.?)
19) How did Tim’s parents get this baby? Adoption? Hospital mix-up? Is there an actual baby that they were supposed to have, somewhere, who isn’t the Boss Baby? Where is that baby? Is that baby okay?
20) What's the Boss Baby’s motivation to seek out this specific family? Is it tied to the “love is running out” theme that undergirds the trailer? Is Tim’s family the root cause of the lack of love in the world?
(Theory: Tim’s parents have a dark secret. They've been embezzling love for years, hoping no one would notice. But Baby Corp. noticed. It’s their job to notice.)
21) And if love is a finite resource, that introduces terrifying complications. Is this an overarching metaphor for the planet’s declining natural resources, e.g. the War for Oil?
22) Why did DreamWorks deem it necessary to include so many references to Glengarry Glen Ross? Did they think that this movie would appeal to people old enough to understand those references? What is the target demographic of The Boss Baby?
23) Why is Jimmy Kimmel in this movie?