Michelle Darnell (Melissa McCarthy) is the 47th richest woman in the world, ruthless in business and generally despised. So when she’s sent to the slammer for insider trader, her welcome back to the world is not exactly warm. She finds herself having to start again, leaning on loyal – but frustrated – former assistant (Kristen Bell) for support…
How much you enjoy The Boss might rely on your enjoyment of Melissa McCarthy’s abilities to find the funny in uncouth, boundary-free characters. Given the diminishing returns on this particular idea through Identity Thief and Tammy to now, there’s ample evidence that she either needs lay off them for a while or find better scripts than this. No easy task, since she tends to favour material she writes alongside husband/director Ben Falcone, pitched at the broadest possible level.
Darnell, a character McCarthy originally created years ago at the Groundlings comedy troupe, sees her as a female Donald Trump type, a braggart mogul with no consideration for those around her. But this is a movie that has to tell a complete story, so of course once she’s brought low, spent time in prison and is forced to rely on the kindness of others, there are some jokes about dealing with problems outside of her super-rich sphere and then it’s time to learn a few lessons about being a better person.
Fortunately, the film does offer some funny moments on that path, with Kristen Bell bringing her typical charm to ex-PA Claire as a reliable straight woman for McCarthy to generally abuse (especially when it comes to her dress sense) and Peter Dinklage going full ham as preening one-time-lover-turned-corporate-nemesis, Renault. And when Michelle hijacks the cookie sales operation run by the Dandelions (the Girl Scout-style group Claire’s daughter is part of), there’s a great, mad street clash between competing factions that would make the gangs of West Side Story run away, snapping their fingers as they go.
But like a poorly mixed batch of biscuits, the varied tones leave a bitter taste in the mouth. The comic highlights are few and far between and the soft emotional core never gets above gooey cliché.
Fitfully funny but failing to really build to much of anything, The Boss is mostly a bust. Even its main character would have a hard time buying it.