Rating: 4 out of 5.

I was very late to the party when it came to 2017’s The Boss Baby. Though it rather controversially was nominated for the Oscar for Best Animated Film, it was critically overlooked. When I watched it for the first time on Netflix, I was surprised at how harmonious the heart and humor work together. That original movie, against all odds, is a truly fun family outing with an Inside Out-esque hook via BabyCorp. Four years later, and the sequel is finally upon us. Naysayers will no doubt hate this one too, but The Boss Baby: Family Business is even more charming and meaningful than its predecessor. The juvenile humor and fart jokes of the original are almost nonexistent, with the focus shifting more to situational humor, clever meta dialogue, and strengthening the familial bond.

In a refreshing change of pace from typical sequel fare, Family Business flashes us forward in the lives of the Templeton brothers, Ted (Alec Baldwin) and Tim (James Marsden). Tim is now a stay-at-home dad, married to successful entrepreneur Carol (Eva Longoria). They have two kids together: Tabitha (Ariana Greenblatt), a second grader who has just started at the best school in town; newborn baby Tina (Amy Sedaris), who Tim learns—in a cute callback to the first movie—actually works for BabyCorp. Ted simply grew up to be a boss, sending inappropriately lavish gifts on special occasions, but rarely showing face for family functions. Over the years, the brothers have drifted further from each other, a far cry from their close-knit bond from childhood. 

Tina’s mission is vital—she has been sent to solve a crisis at BabyCorp, and she needs Ted’s help to do it. A legend at BabyCorp, Ted seems to be the only man for the job. He is one busy boss, so Tina calls Ted there by piecing together a recorded conversation from her covert teddy bear. Ted has no memories of the company or his baby life. Ted and Tim bicker briefly—Tina steps in by making a suggestion: “why don’t you both suck it!” She throws pacifiers into their mouths, and thus begins their mission. Dr. Irwin Armstrong (Jeff Goldblum), the head of Tabitha’s new school, seems to be up to no good. Tina wants Ted to infiltrate Armstrong’s school to unearth his scheme. 

The only way to do this is the film’s most intriguing and fun addition: a baby formula that only lasts for 48 “teensy weensie” hours will transform them back into babies. Tim takes it upon himself to come along for the ride, as the two wrestle for the formula, getting younger and younger. Set to The Rocky Horror Picture Show’s “Time Warp” (the first of several excellent needle drops), the scene ends with the two brothers being children once more—the same age as each of their characters in The Boss Baby. It culminates in a hysterical nipple-twisting fight. Surveillance devices hidden beneath Tina’s sock drawer need to be planted at the school so they can obtain intel. 

Setting the majority of the action at this strange anti-adults school is inspired. It allows us a window into both Tim and Ted, using their acquired adult knowledge to apply this to childhood scenarios. Tim gets put in the same class as Tabitha, allowing him to get closer to his daughter who seems more distant after starting the classes. She is outgrowing kisses goodnight and is content with just giving her dad a handshake. Marcos, Tim’s identity as a child, bonds with Tabitha in a way that her dad hasn’t been able to for a long time. Tabitha just wants her dad to be proud of her, and seeing things through a childhood lens helps him do just that. On the opposite side, Ted gets stuck micromanaging the toddlers, getting him noticed by Armstrong himself. His intelligence level in clearly far higher than those around him; one of the babies suggests they “build a hot air balloon out of pop sickle sticks and bubble gum!” A surprising reveal about the villain, coupled with Jeff Goldblum’s calm tone and flighty and strange line deliveries, forms him into a multi-layered mastermind.

I think people might be pleasantly surprised by this sequel. It is a delight from DreamWorks, a company that is constantly making consistent products that go overlooked. I appreciated the callback to 2002’s Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron playing in a theater within the movie. The voice actors are all cast to perfection and the comedy is on the same level as the first. The baby jokes never get old—one of my favorite lines is from Tina, who is waiting to talk to an operator and says “I’ve been on hold so long I’ve got a tooth growing in.” 

What works best here is both the father/daughter relationships and the brotherly love. Like the first movie, I shed a few tears of joy at the delightful final moments. Family Business does not go out of its way to expand the scope of the story, or to build up sequel possibilities or random asides. It focuses on character and interpersonal relationships above all else, and therein lies the biggest strength. A pretty pony, baby ninjas, “Night of the Living Boomers,” and a tiny toy Wizard named Wizzie that comes to life are here, but it is that emotional core that powers The Boss Baby: Family Business. Go see it, or we’ll have to put you in “the box.”

The Boss Baby: Family Business has a mission for you, in theaters and Peacock Premium on July 2nd.

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