A new feature from from ctvnews.ca! The Crouse Review is a quick, hot take on the weekend’s biggest movies! This week Richard looks at “Ghost in the Shell,” “The Boss Basby” and “The Zookeeper’s Wife.”
Richard and CP24 anchor George Lagogianes have a look at the weekend’s new movies, the reimagined sci fi classic “Ghost in the Shell,” Alec Baldwin as a bossy tot in “The Boss Baby” and Jessica Chastain in “The Zookeeper’s Wife.”
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the big weekend movies, the reimagined sci fi classic “Ghost in the Shell,” Alec Baldwin as a bossy tot in “The Boss Baby” and Jessica Chastain in “The Zookeeper’s Wife.”
In the movies anything is possible. Superheroes routinely save the earth, regular folks can afford to live in fancy New York apartments and infants can talk.
This weekend Alec Baldwin lends his distinctive, raspy voice to the title character of The Boss Baby. Based on a 36-page book by Marla Frazee, it’s a feature length riff on Look Who’s Talking as imagined by Family Guy’s Stewie Griffin.
“I may look like a baby but I was born all grown up,” Boss Baby boasts as he drops into the Templeton family, upsetting only child Tim’s carefree life. Wearing a suit onesie, BB carries a briefcase and speaks the language of the boardroom.
Seems he’s from a purveyor of fine babies, a company that supplies tots via a chute. Those who giggle when tickled are placed with families, those who don’t, like Boss Baby, are sentenced to a Kafka-esque, humourless life in BabyCorp management, kept infant-sized by special formula.
With lines like, “You know who else wears a diaper? Astronauts.” Boss Baby has the movies’s best lines, expertly delivered by Baldwin but he’s not the first talking baby to grace the big screen.
Leone LeDoux was an actor who, when she wasn’t voicing Minnie Mouse in cartoons of the 1930s and 1940s, made a career out of supplying baby vocals for movies. Some, like her work in the short Water Babies, involved creating childlike sounds for on screen infants while others were more involved. In The Reluctant Dragon she gives voice to child genius Baby Weems.
“You’re a quiet little fellow, aren’t you?” coos the nurse.
“Well, there really isn’t much to talk about,” replies Weems.
Other movie babies have had more to say.
Amy Heckerling came up with the idea for the Citizen Kane of talking toddler movies, Look Who’s Talking, when she and screenwriter husband Neal Israel were playing with their new baby. “My husband and I started to put words in her mouth,” she told the Los Angeles Times. “what she might be thinking based on her expressions.” The playful game blossomed into a film starring Kristie Alley, John Travolta and Bruce Willis as the voice of talking newborn Mikey. Heckerling notes that Willis frequently went off script, improvising X-rated lines that couldn’t be used in the film.
The movie gave Travolta’s career a shot in the arm—he hadn’t acted in five years—and started a talking baby trend in pop culture. The next year the sitcom Baby Talk starred the vocal stylings of Tony Danza as Baby Mickey, son of single mom Maggie.
More recently the baritone voiced E-Trade baby, frequently voiced by comedian Pete Holmes, looked to Heckerling’s movie for inspiration. From 2008 to 2014 Elayne Rapping, professor of American Studies at SUNY/Buffalo says the spokesbaby “humanized the whole business of trading. While other babies are just pictures, this one has a personality that is pure pop culture.”
Finally, back on the big screen Baby Geniuses sees Kathleen Turner and Christopher Lloyd as scientists who think that babies are born knowing the secrets of the universe. To learn those secrets they try to decode goo-goo-ga-ga baby talk. Roger Ebert put this movie on his “Most Hated” list and the Stinkers bad Movie Awards nominated Leo, Gerry and Myles Fitzgerald, the triplets who played Sly, the baby genius, as Worst Child Performer.
Based on a 36-page book by Marla Frazee, “The Boss Baby” is a feature length riff on “Look Who’s Talking” as imagined by “Family Guy’s” Stewie.
Tim Templeton (voice of Miles Bakshi, grandson of animation hero Ralph) is an imaginative seven-year-old only child of parents Ted and Janis voiced by Jimmy Kimmel and Lisa Kudrow. “It was just the three of us,” he says. “The Templetons. Three is the perfect number. Interesting fact, did you know the triangle is the strongest shape alive?” He’s content to be the centre of attention but his carefully constructed life is turned upside down when Mom and Dad come home with his little brother (Alec Baldwin).
The baby is… different. “I may look like a baby but I was born all grown up,” he boasts. Wearing a suit onesie he carries a briefcase and speaks the language of the boardroom. “He’s like a little man!” says Mom. Seems he’s from a purveyor of fine babies, a company that supplies tots who arrive via a chute. Those who giggle when tickled are placed with families, those who don’t, like Boss Baby, are sentenced to a Kafka-esque, humourless life in BabyCorp management, kept infant-sized by special formula. “If people knew where babies really came from they’d never have one,” says Boss Baby. “Same goes for hotdogs.”
In his quest for a promotion and a corner office with his own private potty the ambitious Boss Baby lands with Tim and family. He’s placed himself with Ted and Janice to get closer to their boss, Francis E. Francis (Steve Buscemi), CEO of PuppyCorp. Francis is developing a forever puppy, a new designer models of Frankendog, each more adorable than the last. They’re so cute they threaten to soak up all the love usually reserved for babies. It’s a threat to BabyCorp’s giant-sized baby business and if Boss Baby doesn’t get to the bottom of the puppy problem his special formula will be taken away and he will turn into a regular baby. With Tim’s reluctant help he takes on PuppyCorp.
Echoes of the lamentable “Storks” and its baby making company reverberate throughout the “The Boss Baby’s” infant delivery sequence but the comparisons between the two movies ends there.
At the mushy heart of “The Boss Baby” are messages about the importance of family and unconditional love and other kid flick platitudes, but at the forefront is Boss Baby as a more devious version of Beck Bennett, “Saturday Night Live’s” CEO with the body of a baby. Baldwin brings his distinctive rasp to the character, dropping riffs from his “Glengarry Glen Ross” super-salesman character. “Put that cookie down,” he scolds. “Cookies are for closers,” and “You know who else wears a diaper? Astronauts.” With an aplomb that makes the whole silly story worth a look.
Director Tom “Madagascar” McGrath uses various kinds of animation to paint the screen with vibrant colours and images. His ninja spy sequence is striking, drawing from kung fu movies and horror movies to create the film’s most interesting few minutes. Most characters resemble Margaret Keane’s big-eyed children but McGrath finds interesting ways to jazz them up. Baby Boss’s James Brown strut up walkway to the house is more than choreography, it tells you all you need to know about the character before you even see his face. A scene with incomprehensible Elvis impersonators is hilarious and strange for adults and kids alike. In those sequences and small character moments McGrath and company shine.
Despite those character and animated flourishes “The Boss Baby” doesn’t go out of its way to truly distinguish itself. It’s a pleasant diversion for big and small but the story and its lessons feel like things we’ve seen done before and done better.
The new “Madagascar” movie spin off is brought to you by the letter P. P is for penguin and puns.
“The Penguins of Madagascar” is the punniest movie of the year. It never met a pun it didn’t like and these penguins give The Marx Brothers a run for their money in the word play department. Based on spin off characters from the “Madagascar” series, these shifty, flightless birds soar in a movie that is more entertaining than the films that introduced us to them.
Skipper (voice of Tom McGrath), Kowalski (Chris Miller), Rico (Conrad Vernon) and Private (Christopher Knights) are penguins on a mission. Dr. Octavius Brine, (voice of John Malkovich) is an octopodian evil genius on a mission to get revenge on a certain quartet of birds for a perceived slight. To save themselves, and perhaps all of penguin-kind, Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private reluctantly team with an animal undercover organization known as The North Wind. Led by the suave wolf Agent Classified (Benedict Cumberbatch) they aim to aid the penguins, but will the high tech spies be more of a hindrance than help?
“The Penguins of Madagascar” has a lot in common with other big screen animated entertainment for children. It is paced at the speed of light, has several frenetic action scenes and seems tailor made to inspire a run on cute stuffed toys at Movies ‘R’ Us. The thing that sets it apart from its animated cousins is the spirit of anarchy in its casting, story choices and even the barrage of puns.
How many kid’s movies feature a cameo by the sublimely surreal director Werner Herzog? Can you name another children’s flick where a character says, “You didn’t have a family and we’re all going to die,” to a newborn? Then there are the puns. They come fast and furious, usually in the form of an off hand comment. The movie’s best running gag involves working movie star names into Dr. Brine’s instructions to his minions. “Nicholas! Cage those penguins!” It’s silly and by the time he gets to Elijah Wood, Drew Barrymore and Kevin Bacon, also hilarious.
“The Penguins of Madagascar” is good, zany fun. No lessons will be learned, no morals taught, nothing gained but a good time at the movies.