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A few weeks ago, a consensus was more or less reached that the animated feature Luca represents “minor Pixar.” Even committed fans of the film might find it hard to argue otherwise: Here is a short, sweet, little romp with a handful of major characters; conflict that never reaches life-and-death stakes; and bouncier, cartoonier animation than usual. Even the usual climactic Pixar-brand chase primarily involves a few kids riding bikes up and down a hill. Compare this to last year’s “minor Pixar” Onward, which may not have been anyone’s favorite, but featured a richly imagined world merging fantasy imagery with more mundane modern conveniences (and inconveniences), and a quest’s worth of side characters and environments. Or, to make Luca look like a tone poem, compare it to The Boss Baby: Family Business, the new feature from DreamWorks Animation.
By another set of definitions, it would be easy to call Boss Baby 2 minor. First of all, it comes from DreamWorks, which apart from a brief surge of Shrek fever in the early 2000s has played enthusiastic second fiddle to the Pixar winning streak. Second, it’s a sequel, and not to one of the signature later-era DreamWorks series like How To Train Your Dragon or Trolls—just 2017’s The Boss Baby, a mishmash of a hit family comedy whose primary feature was its unwillingness to distinguish between fantasy and reality. Family Business seems to exist primarily because it’s a sequel. While Pixar has (deservedly) taken heat for making too many follow-ups, DreamWorks really depends on franchising to keep its pipeline going; only three of its last ten movies weren’t part of some multiplatform franchise or another.