Since her breakout star-turn in Bridesmaids (2011), Melissa McCarthy has firmly established her own brand of comedy and – with hits like The Heat (2013), Tammy (2014) & Spy (2015) – become a powerhouse box office draw that rivals Jim Carrey and Adam Sandler at the peak of their popularity. That mass appeal is still on display in her latest star vehicle she co-wrote and co-produced with director husband Ben Falcone, but the movie itself is so sloppy no amount of charisma or goodwill would have made a difference.
McCarthy plays Michelle Darnell, a ruthless business tycoon slash moneymaking guru revered by millions and detested by probably more. One such enemy named Renaut (Dinklage) outed her illegal doings, landing her in jail for a few years. When Michelle gets out of prison, she finds all her property seized and, failing to think of one single friend, ends up on the couch of former assistant/reluctant patron Claire (Bell). After her attempts at restarting her career get shot down by old grudges from all directions, Michelle turns to Claire’s homemade brownies to build a new empire from the ground up.
There’s a distinct lack of thought to the script in the sense that every plot development feels like a spontaneous idea, barely considered let alone contextualised. From Michelle’s drastic fall from grace; her contentious relationship with both Renaud and one-time mentor Ida played by Kathy Bates in a dispensable cameo; to her bonding with, then betrayal of, then reconciliation with Claire, so many parts of the story are carelessly glazed over or simply missing the whole enterprise reeks of laziness.
Making matters worse is the fact that, while McCarthy and Bell are both pros ready to hit whatever punchline home with their killer timing, the jokes that really work are few and far between. McCarthy has a couple of moments to shine, most notably when she bad-mouths school kids or their parents with her trademark combo of sweetness and over-the-top vulgarity. But for long stretches of time none of the verbal quips or physical gags, almost exclusively of the knee-jerk ha-ha variety, scores. It’s telling that the funniest thing in the entire movie is a sofa bed that violently claps together to send its unsuspecting user flying – and they played that for laughs twice.
Too undercooked to be anywhere near hilarious or heartwarming, The Boss ends up delivering some jumbled message about family and female empowerment wrapped in a lot of failed jokes. We’re hoping for a serious return-to-form from the mightily talented Ms. McCarthy – perhaps as soon as the new Ghostbusters movie coming this summer?
THE BOSS | Directed by Ben Falcone (USA 2016) with Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Bell, Peter Dinklage. Starts April 21