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The new entry in the animated "Boss Baby" franchise feels like an example of growth, while crawling on a treadmill.
"The Boss Baby: Family Business" picks up with the first movie's narrator, Tim, now grown up (voiced by James Marsden) and married to a high-achieving Carol (Eva Longoria). Tim's an energetic, imaginative stay-at-home dad raising too-serious Tabitha (Ariana Greenblatt, so good in "Awake") and infant Tina (Amy Sedaris), whom we learned at the end of the first film is a Boss Baby. For the uninitiated, that means Tina, as Tim's brother Ted (Alec Baldwin) did as an infant, has adult intelligence and speaking ability due to a "Secret Baby Formula" from Baby Corp.
Grown Tim and Ted have become estranged despite the closeness established in their first adventure. Tina declares that in order to fulfill her mission from Baby Corp. she must reunite the brothers and turn them back into their younger selves to infiltrate Tabitha's school. The school's founder, Dr. Edwin Armstrong (Jeff Goldblum), may be up to no good.
From there, the story and emotional beats pretty much fall into place as dusty old grownups would expect. Younger kids may be sufficiently distracted by the slapstick and a few new memorable characters. Precious, a surly pony with a glamorous mane, and a classmate identified only as "Creepy Girl" steal just about every scene they're in. Creepy Girl looks designed for a "Hotel Transylvania" movie but was summoned by the wrong Ouija board. Kids will likely love those two.
For grownups, there may be a few obstacles to enjoyment, starting with the oppressive use of score, blaring at viewers to "Have fun, have fun damn it!" at many a turn. Many, many a turn. The notion of a cast with Baldwin, Sedaris and Goldblum certainly sounds promising, but putting voices already that expressive in the excessively animated mouths of "Boss Baby's" characters feels a bit much. That's no knock on the actors. For instance, Goldblum's Edwin makes a delightfully weird villain, a niche in which he's obviously quite comfortable. But one misses the deadpan and subtlety of those actors' faces.
The film offers other pleasures for grownups — the school putting on a pageant with doom-saying climate-change themes, some beautiful design (especially in that pageant sequence, in which the gorgeous use of color and light bring to mind the spectacular circus climax of director and co-writer Tom McGrath's "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted") and the music supervision department's apparently unlimited budget. Kudos for sneaking a song from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" into a kids' movie.
However, the film feels overstuffed. Too many threads, too many relationship crises headed for neat resolutions that we (including kids, likely) anticipate. It clicks into its slot as the next cog in the "Boss Baby" machine (movies, TV show, shorts, etc.); it's more of the same, for better or worse, but likely with enough bells and whistles — especially those new characters — to please younger fans.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.