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Friday, April 8, 2016

Movie Review: 'The Boss'

The Boss can't sustain the big laughs with a predictable plot.

Review by Matt Cummings

It wasn't too long ago that we were singing the praises of Actress Melissa McCarthy's parody Spy, a raunchy ride that actually gave her a story on which to scaffold her amazing comedic talents. Unfortunately, that moment now seems far away, as The Boss returns to McCarthy's tried (and failed) schtick of solid comedic moments filled with a ton of garbage that barely keeps our interests.

Michelle Darnell (McCarthy) is rude, rich, and doesn't care what anyone thinks of her. Announcing "I'm the 47th richest woman in America!", Darnell dons a professional coif and an insanely high turtleneck as she encourages an arena of hungry guests to become rich. But her success has come at a price, betraying her former mentor Ida (Kathy Bates) and business partner/ex-lover Renault (Peter Dinklage) along the way. There's a reason for Michelle's take-no-prisoners attitude: she was returned several times to an orphanage by a series of foster families. This has resulted in Darnell treating everyone around her like dryer lint, including assistant Claire (Kristen Bell). But when she's convicted of insider trading, she loses everything and must bunk at Claire's paltry apartment. But Darnell won't give up, and soon embarks on a new business to sell Claire's delicious brownies, Girl Scout style. As Renault seeks to take over the business, Michelle must decide if she can turn over a new leaf and treat Claire as a friend, or if a childhood filled with rejection is too tall of a hill to climb.

The Boss is directed by McCarthy's husband Ben Falcone, who also shot the awful Tammy; Darnell isn't that reprehensible, but she's not exactly what we expected either. Foul-mouthed (almost unnecessarily, and that says a lot coming from me) and sexually repressed, McCarthy isn't as appealing when her fish-out-of-water character is so unlikable. She does don the wig and high (really high) turtleneck sweater quite well, mixing tough arrogance with charm. There's some enjoyable displays of McCarthy's physical comedy, getting ejected off a sofa bed, and tumbling down a flight of stairs.

But a lot of this doesn't work. The climax which sees Darnell lock swords with Renault was probably a great idea at the writing table, but it's not edited very well and McCarthy doesn't look convincing battling someone 1/3 of her height. Bell - who I'd love to see in more projects - is good enough here as the straight-(wo)man, eventually getting into the fray by allowing Darnell to grope her breasts as she prepares for a date with her co-worker (the towering and too hairy Taylor Labine). The groping scene goes on way too long (watch This is 40 to see a far more effective version), essentially chewing up screen time. In fact, the 99-minute runtime includes several elongated sequences that left our smallish test audience fairly quiet.

Dinklage is ill-used, to the point that he disappears for a good 30 minutes. But when he's there, his strange accent, pony-tail hair, and silly mannerisms instantly work. I would have love to have seen more of him and less of Bell, who isn't awful but can only hold on so long against McCarthy's potty-mouthed wackiness. It's the same issue I had with Dinklage in Pixels and for exactly the same reasons.

But the worst part of The Boss is its decision not to better develop how the manner of Darnell's upbringing almost destroys her humanity. Why Falcone and McCarthy chose such low-hanging fruit is a problem we didn't see in Spy. That movie worked because they gave Susan Cooper a voice and reason for wanting to be a spy. Here, Darnell is just a crass businesswoman with no layers beyond that. When she eventually realizes that she wants close emotional relationships, it feels entirely forced. Such sentimentality is only used when Falcone thinks it's to his advantage, reminding me of Darnell's rather cutthroat character. Add emotion here, followed by hugs, and the eventual quip.

Hidden somewhere deep inside The Boss is a good dramedy of family and how the choices we make can sometimes pile up on themselves. Sadly, this raunch-fest ruins any chance for that story to emerge, opting for the low-hanging fruit of blowjobs, bad breath, fondling, and odd midget sexuality. Watch Spy again and treat this like one of Darnell's brownies: packaged, shipped, and ultimately forgotten.

The Boss is Rated R for sexual content, language and brief drug use and has a runtime of 99 minutes.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.

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