Melissa McCarthy has consistently played two types of characters in her movies. Either she’s a character who’s grossly undervalued by the people around her (See: Spy), or she’s a character who’s just gross for the sake of fat jokes (See: Tammy). Fortunately, The Boss gives her a new character to work with. Well, technically a new character. The idea of foul-mouthed businesswoman Michelle Darnell originated in McCarthy’s Los Angeles improv days.
Directed by Ben Falcone—who’s not only McCarthy’s husband but her producing and screenwriting partner as well—The Boss follows entrepreneur and 47th wealthiest woman in America Michelle Darnell after her business rival and former lover Renault (Peter Dinklage) blows the whistle on her insider trading activities.
After being released from her white-collar prison, Michelle moves in with her former assistant and single mom Claire (Kristen Bell) and her daughter, Rachel (Ella Anderson), and discovers a business opportunity with Rachel’s Dandelions club, a nonprofit group for girls to earn merit badges for doing useless things like “building a beaver’s nest.” Together with Claire, Michelle creates the Darnell Darlings, a for-profit group for girls to learn how to run a business and start their own college funds. And, of course, she helps Claire get some of her mojo back after fading into motherhood.
The character of Michelle is a fun concept in itself, particularly because we haven’t seen the greedy Wall Street trader/shady businessman type on women as often in film. McCarthy spends most of the movie stomping around, getting in people’s faces, and mocking their life choices. And it’s definitely something different, which shows McCarthy is more than a one-trick pony. She can do comedy, she can do drama, she can play the eccentric sidekick, she can play the hero, and she can now play the anti-hero (Because, let’s be honest, you really don’t want to see a rich jerk win, right?).
The Boss has the potential for hitting all the right notes. It’s got the heartfelt story about family. It’s got the hilarious Dandelions vs. Darnell Darlings fights. It’s got Melissa McCarthy playing the over-the-top character with Kristen Bell as her straight man. And any movie is made better simply by the presence of Peter Dinklage. But The Boss fails to deliver a cohesive story that fully develops its main characters beyond their foul-mouthed businesswoman and single mom descriptors. Worse, the beginning of the movie is slow and doesn’t drive a lot of laughter (My theater was awkwardly silent).
It does finds its groove here and there. Like Michelle spitting rapid-fire insults at Dandelion den-mom Helen (Annie Mumolo). Or when she gets into a boob punching fight with Claire. Or even when an out-of-nowhere wacky katana fight breaks out in the movie’s climax between Michelle and Renault. It’s like whenever McCarthy whips out inappropriate language and physical comedy (like getting hurled into a wall by a couch-bed), you can see her shining more brightly. But those moments are so few and far between.
It’s not a bad movie, but it’s also not one of McCarthy’s best. And while I love that McCarthy and Falcone are a husband-wife writing, producing, acting combo, I’m starting to think they don’t come up with the best material together. Truly, the times when I’ve found McCarthy to be the funniest were when she was part of a Paul Feig directed/written film (Think Bridesmaids, The Heat, Spy).
The Boss: C+
You can listen to my review of The Boss on “Pat & JT in the Morning” here (at 26:21).