The Boss Baby (2017)

Holy crap another movie adaptation of a children’s book, picture book. This has to be one of the most bizarre premises I’ve come across for a children’s book in some time, well at least until the end where all is somewhat explained.

So basically you’ve got this family of three, mum dad and their little boy Tim. Tim is as happy as can be with his life because he gets lots of love and attention from his parents. But things take a turn for the worst when his mum and dad have a baby. Much to Tim’s amazement the baby arrives in a taxi, wears a suit, and he can talk. Almost straight away the baby throws Tim’s life into disarray without his parents noticing.

It turns out that the baby (called ‘the boss’) is actually a baby but works for a mysterious company called Baby Corp. Here all babies have the minds of adults and work to keep infant love at a good level. Basically when people are born some are sent to their families but others that show a different state of mind are held back to work for Baby Corp, or something like that. These adult minded babies have to drink a special formula that keeps them as babies forever, if they stop they will grow old. Meanwhile, all other babies that go to their families, do retain memories of Baby Corp though their pacifier (dummy). But when that pacifier is eventually taken away (by the parents) they lose those memories. Utterly bizarre I know.

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This premise raises many questions though. Does this mean that all the babies in Baby Corp are immortal? Surely it does because if they never stop drinking the formula they never grow older. Where is Baby Corp suppose to be exactly? When a baby is held back to work for Baby Corp, what happens with the family expecting that baby? Its also mentioned at one point by Tim that his parents told him where babies come from. But as Boss baby points out that is incorrect, so how come adults have never noticed the fact that no one gives birth? I guess you could say I’m reading into this too much, but these questions do kinda spring out at you.

Lets look at the villain. This guy used to be one of Baby Corps top babies, but apparently he was lactose intolerant so the special formula didn’t work properly on him and he grew up. OK fair enough, but how come he can still remember Baby Corps? I thought babies lose that memory without their pacifier. Was it different for him because he used to be a CEO of Baby Corp or because he had been using the special formula or something??

I must admit the plot behind this movie was way more convoluted than I ever imagined. I just assumed it would be about a baby that acts like an adult behind its parents backs, kinda like an animated ‘Look Who’s Talking’ type thing. I mean the casting of Alec Baldwin was a good move that’s for sure. If there’s anyone who has the perfect temperament for being a suit trapped in a babies body, its Alec Baldwin. Hell Baldwin is intimidating enough just by looking at his face, he constantly has that angry dad expression on his face, the scary boss with a short fuse. So spot on voice casting there.

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Visually the movie is a treat but that’s nothing new these days. But what I did find more interesting were the short imagination sequences that Tim has when he’s playing. These sequences had a different, more simplified artistic style (kinda reminiscent of some old WB cartoons) with a much more vibrant, almost neon, colour palette. It was these sequences that I found to be way more intriguing and enjoyable than the rest of the actual movie. I especially liked the artistic style and colours used, really bold and striking. Other positive moments I can mention, a nice little ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ homage, and even more bizarrely a homage to the old classic kids board game Mouse Trap (80’s kids will know of this). Where on earth did that come from??

So yeah, its pretty to look at, the voice acting is solid and its amusing in places. I liked it when Tim was battling with the baby, from his parents point of view its seeing the duo merely playing, but its actually a battle. The sequence in the back garden with the pedal car is the perfect example of that. In general its a very average outing really (with a peculiar plot). A standard modern CGI kids flick with all the right boxes ticked.

6/10

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The Lego Batman Movie (2017)

What am I gonna do, get a bunch of criminals together to fight the criminals? That’s a stupid idea

So in the Lego universe, an unknown distance (at this point) away from what we witnessed in the first Lego movie, the city of Gotham exists. Within this city Batman and his allies battle the forces of evil on a regular basis, except on Sundays maybe. The forces of good have gotta have a day off right?

Well as usual it looks like the Joker is at it again with his criminal cohorts and their naughty antics. Whilst trying to detonate a bomb under Gotham City, Batman and Joker face-off. Unwittingly Batman appears to destroy the Joker’s delicate feelings when he starkly informs the Joker he isn’t his arch nemesis. In fact he doesn’t even need the Joker, the criminal isn’t as important in Batman’s life as he thinks. This hurts the Joker more than anything that has come before and causes him to review his strategies. The Joker plans to show how important he is to Batman, how vital he is in Batman’s life, and this will require a cunning plan of deception.

What I really loved about this movie was the raw exposure of Batman’s life, his true existence. And by that I mean the fact he’s essentially a bit of a loser, a loner, clearly narcissistic, a manic depressive, has maybe a touch of OCD and is quite possibly a bit unhinged. Bottom line we see right away that Batman does indeed need his enemies to survive, he does indeed need the Joker to give his life purpose. This is highlighted fantastically with the sequences in the Batcave where we see vast open spaces filled with technology and gadgets that could be used by a team of superheroes. Then again in Wayne Manor where we see Batman rattling around in large echo filled rooms all by his lonesome, except for the aging Alfred.

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I loved the small bits where we see Batman preparing his lobster dinner, then eating it on his own. He then proceeds to his own personal cinema to watch his favourite Tom Cruise movie (‘Jerry Maguire’) on his own. His laughter again echoes around the empty room exposing his self-imposed solitary confinement. Its also during these sequences we start to see some of the sweet references to all the previous Batman movies. Admittedly they did kinda look the same (unavoidable) but I simply couldn’t help but smile as I saw the brief visual flashbacks from every Batman movie in Lego form (except the 1966 movie which was live action).

Its these references to other movies, TV shows, modern pop culture and the humour that, for me, made this movie so enjoyable. Essentially the plot wasn’t important, it didn’t really need to be, and besides, it was always gonna be the same spiel anyway. This movie was basically a chance to look for easter eggs and have a laugh, and with that I wasn’t disappointed. This movie is loaded with obvious and not so obvious nods to so many things. I liked how in between some scenes we saw the classic spinning Batman logo from the 1966-68 Batman TV series.

The legendary shark repellent makes an appearance (again from the 66 Batman movie). There are naturally many recognisable Batman suits to be seen in the background at various stages. At one point we see the Burton Batmobile and Nolan Tumbler. The classic John Williams 1978 ‘Superman’ score is used very very briefly and we also get visual nods to Jor-El (in Brando form) and Zod (in Terence Stamp form). There are many lines of dialog from previous Batman movies used here such as ‘where does he get all those wonderful toys?’. There are also many many tiny nods with names being used, visual appearances, links to comics and the animated series etc…I could go on.

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Another thing that I really loved was the inclusion of so many supervillain characters. Something that could normally be seen as a bad sign and set off alarm bells, works just fine here. Why? because the plot is daft and meaningless and its all about the comedy and visual recognition. Yes we see a shit load of villains who have literally nothing to do but be seen in the background or say one line or complete one task. Who cares! in this movie it just doesn’t matter because its literally like watching a child play with his toys (ala the first Lego movie). The fun part is firstly just seeing all these wacky characters in Lego form, secondly then Googling their Wiki to find out more about them. Zebra-Man? Kite Man? Clock King? Condiment King? Calendar Man?? Seriously??? I love it!!

One little niggle though, something I didn’t really get or like. All the villains in the Phantom Zone were villains/baddies (dinosaurs?) from other movies such as ‘Jurassic Park’, ‘Gremlins’, ‘Harry Potter’ and the old Universal monster movies of the 20’s – 50’s. Why? I don’t get why they used these characters because it kinda took me out of the whole superhero vibe of it all. Of course I know its because Lego covers virtually everything and if they can use the license they will, but I just didn’t like that idea. Why couldn’t they just use more from the huge catalog of DC characters? And why wasn’t Zod, Ursa or Non used as main villains? They show Zod but don’t utilise him which was an odd choice frankly. I’d much rather see him used than Dracula for heavens sake. Also, why does the Joker look more like a demon? He has pointed teeth and again an odd choice in hairstyle.

This did all lead me to ask myself one thing though, seeing as the first Lego movie established this Lego universe as merely a young boys imagination (I believe that’s how it went if I remember correctly). Does this mean that everything in this movie is also merely a young child’s imagination? Would it be the same child? Seeing as this is a spin-off and linked to said original movie, I must assume its all a child’s imagination at playtime.

Anyway that aside, I did enjoy this movie, more so than the first Lego movie methinks. The voice work from the multitude of actors was again spot on (just like the first movie). Obviously Will Arnett as Batman wins hands down because its just so damn amusing to hear Batman talk about regular everyday stuff in that gravelly macho voice. It all looks sharp, colourful and gorgeous. That Lego stop motion animation is so endearing although a tad frenetic at times, and the comedy overall is pretty much pitch perfect. There’s stuff for the kids, stuff for the adults and plenty of stuff for the fanboys and nerds. Normally I’m not the greatest fan of modern pop culture references and trendy in-film songs, especially on overload. But this movie shows how it can be done well without being annoying.

8/10

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Little Giants (1994)

Ah the old cliched sports movie, a veritable treasure trove of…cliches. I mean what can I possibly say here that everyone doesn’t already know about? It doesn’t matter that this is a kids movie, in fact that makes it even worse for the cringeworthy cliches.

So the little all American town of Urbania (sounds like a small eastern European country) has a pee-wee football team called the Cowboys. Said team is coached by the local hero Kevin O’Shea (Ed O’Niell). After try outs for the team various useless kids are cut including local girl Becky who is daughter of Kevin’s brother Danny (Rick Moranis). Upset by being cut Becky convinces her dad to create another team for all the kids who didn’t make the grade for the Cowboys. Unfortunately this goes against the rules of one town, one team which is pointed out with much glee from Kevin. So Danny and his ragtag team of inept kids challenge Kevin and his well oiled machine of kids, to a playoff. Which team will represent the town Valkenvania…Castlevania…Transylvania…Urbania!!

Yeah so you should know what to expect here, we’ve seen this type of thing a million times in various movies for kids. The bumbling cack-handed kids of the Little Giants team are a stereotypical bunch. You’ve got the fat kid who’s funny because he’s fat, clearly very unfit and unhealthy…funny huh! The scrawny weedy kid who’s half the size of everyone else, wears glasses, has a basin haircut and is a mummy’s boy. The token black kid…who also can’t catch. The token Asian kid…who’s also mega fat and wears glasses. One kid who cries all the time, one kid who gets injured all the time, and of course the one good looking blonde kid who’s kinda good.

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On the other hand the fitter and better trained kids of the Cowboys team are also a stereotypical bunch. Stereotypical in the sense that they all look pretty uniform in appearance from physique to haircuts. One team is an uncouth messy mishmash of nerds; the other a highly organised, well trained team of young jocks. Each teams coach also represents those stereotypes in the sense that Danny (Moranis) is more of a laid back, spectacle wearing academic type who wants the kids to just have fun. Where as Kevin (O’Niell) is more of a no nonsense coach with a slick haircut, fancy sports car and likes (has) to win big. Danny coaches his unruly Giants with creative methods that involve no funds. Kevin has his own assistant, the team have expensive proper kits and equipment, and they use pro training methods within proper facilities.

The movie certainly does seem to push the old negative stereotype that anyone who wears spectacles must be some sort of weedy nerd who is more academic than sporty. Vice versa it also pushes the daft stereotype that anyone who is sporty must be large, muscular and have a buzz cut. The thing is the movie never really addresses those stereotypes. I mean yeah sure the Giants win in the end (unsurprising spoiler alert!) and the Cowboys do recognise and applaud their opponents, but the stereotypes are still there, the movie doesn’t really attempt to rectify them.

Being a sports movie about American (pee-wee) football mixed with elements from ‘Home Alone’ does offer up some nice ideas, but its still a by the numbers movie really. Lots of silly training montages from both teams, lots of silliness from the kids, heartfelt moments from the adults yadda yadda yadda. There is a painfully slow car chase sequence in the movie which was so obviously staged I dunno why they kept it in. I do like Ed O’Niell but yet again he’s basically giving us Al Bundy with his performance, he seems completely unable to break away from that persona. Where as Rick Moranis just does what he’s always done really, play a spectacle wearing geek with a heart. As for the kid actors, well they do OK. They all do a good job in playing disgusting or wimpy nerds that’s for sure, they all looked their parts.

Obviously this movie is the typical underdog tale, unashamedly so, and that’s not a bad thing because it is supposed to be for young kids. And while the movie is a feel good flick which kids I’m sure will enjoy, I can’t help but feel the overall message is somewhat mixed (if you wear glasses you’re a nerd!). Its definitely a well made movie, very colourful, cheerful and chock full of cheekiness, just don’t expect anything original. But I think we all know and expect this.

7/10

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