D: Ben Falcone / 99m
Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Bell, Peter Dinklage, Ella Anderson, Tyler Labine, Kathy Bates, Cecily Strong, Mary Sohn, Kristen Schaal, Timothy Simons, Cedric Yarbrough
Just when you thought it was safe to sit down and watch a movie featuring Melissa McCarthy – and this based on her supporting turn in St. Vincent (2014) and the refreshing change of career pace that was Spy (2015) – along comes The Boss, a throwback to the haphazard comedies she was making in the wake of her break-out turn in Bridesmaids (2011). That McCarthy has both comedic and acting chops to spare makes her decision to appear in The Boss seem like a backward step, a contractual obligation perhaps, but even though she has the ability to step up a gear when required, this sees the future Ghostbuster idling in neutral for much of the movie’s running time.
It’s a slight tale. McCarthy is Michelle Darnell, the 47th richest woman in America, a businesswoman whose foster-care childhood has made her the self-absorbed, take no prisoners, care about no one else success story she’s always wanted to be. But when she’s careless with a deal set up via insider trading, arch-rival and one-time lover Renault (Dinklage), makes sure she’s arrested. Cue a stretch in prison that does nothing to change her attitude. When she gets out she has nowhere to go, so she offloads herself on her ex-PA Claire (Bell), and Claire’s daughter, Rachel (Anderson). Financial salvation (and ultimately personal redemption) comes in the unlikely combination of Rachel’s Dandelions group, and Claire’s ability to make amazing brownies. Using the group to sell the brownies, Michelle begins to claw her way back up the business ladder, but will it be at the expense of the new-found regard for others that she’s discovered, and will she recognise at last that trusting in others brings its own rewards?
If you have to think about the answer to that question then… where have you been, and wherever you were, what were doing all this time? This is a riches to rags to riches movie that plays fast and loose with its stitched together screenplay, and seems content to make Michelle as brainless/obtuse/horrible as possible before she experiences the usual road to Damascus moment required in movies such as this and turns into a loveable, and loving, heroine. You’ve seen this kind of movie too often for it to offer anything new, and to be fair to McCarthy and her co-screenwriters, Falcone and Steve Mallory, it doesn’t once try too hard to be anything but what it is: a so-so comedy that offers occasional laughs while its cast tries to make more out of it than is on the page (which results in one of Dinklage’s worst performances for some time, and Labine reduced to cuddly man-child duties as Claire’s potential boyfriend). If you’re a fan of McCarthy’s previous movies, such as Tammy (2014) and Identity Thief (2013), then you’ll be amused. But if not, then this will be a hard slog indeed.
Rating: 5/10 – a by-the-numbers comedy that relies too much on its star being objectionable for no real reason, The Boss also features some awkward scenes that go on for far too long in their efforts to make the viewer laugh – the scene where McCarthy plays with Bell’s breasts being a good case in point; it’s no earth-shaker to be sure, but when even the star isn’t trying too hard, then you know this is just filler before the next, hopefully more rewarding project.