WASHINGTON • Director Tom McGrath has worked with a handful of veteran comic talents, including Will Ferrell and Tina Fey, who have impersonated political figures on comedy sketch show Saturday Night Live (SNL).
But when he cast Alec Baldwin for his newest CGI-animated film, The Boss Baby, he had no idea that Baldwin's Trump impression would now be in full bloom on SNL.
That timing is fortuitous, McGrath tells The Washington Post in a recent interview, as the heat of Baldwin's current spotlight has only raised the curiosity factor around another role in which Baldwin plays the new boss.
The actor's distinctive comic voice is central to the DreamWorksanimated The Boss Baby, which opened to US$49 million (S$67 million) in its domestic debut, according to studio estimates on Sunday, outpacing projections as well as the Disney powerhouse Beauty And The Beast (US$48 million).
Topping Beauty would be no small feat - Disney's live-action adaptation has grossed nearly US$400 million domestically in less than a month.
Boss Baby's success underscores the audience appetite for familyfriendly animation even before the summer season, regardless of reviews.
The Fox-distributed film has an average score of just 50 on MetaCritic.com and a rating of 49 per cent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.
McGrath, who directed Megamind (2010) and three Madagascar films, worked with writer Michael McCullers (Baby Mama, 2008, and the three Austin Powers films, 1997-2002) to adapt the 2010 children's book by Caldecott-winning writer-artist Marla Frazee.
Both the book and film centre on how a seven-year-old boy (voiced by Miles Christopher Bakshi) reacts when an officious baby brother enters the picture and is so needy that he seems to be bossing around the parents.
Producer Ramsey Ann Naito, a veteran of the Maryland Institute College of Art, tells The Post during a recent Washington visit that she immediately related to the book, particularly because she remembered the jealousy exhibited by her then seven-year-old son when her second son arrived.
Naito took the book to McGrath, a long-time friend, who says the story resonated with him because of his childhood relationship with an elder brother. The project soon took shape, adding Steve Buscemi, Jimmy Kimmel, Lisa Kudrow and Tobey Maguire to the voice cast.
Boss Baby might not have the pathos of a Pixar movie or the sheer beauty of a Studio Ghibli film. But the new movie, which has grossed US$70.2 million worldwide, is amiable, action-heavy and stylish in its nods to vintage Looney Tunes art.
So while the headline-grabbing Paramount remake Ghost In The Shell (US$19 million) tanked in its domestic debut this weekend, Boss Baby is the little engine that - powered by former Thomas The Tank Engine narrator Baldwin - could find a second-weekend audience.