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Sunday, August 7, 2016

Blu-ray Review: #TheBoss

Although it looks and sounds good, 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.

The Movie - 3/5
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.

The Video - 4/5
If there's one thing that The Boss does absolutely right, it's the very good MGEG-4/AVC transfer. The digital image is clear and beautifully colored, never resulting in an over-saturated signal. The movie is generally bathed in warm hues, which makes the contrast even more noticeable. Clothing - like Darnell's turtlenecks - reveal stitching and wrinkles quite well, while sets like Claire's apartment look authentic. Facial features like Bell's stringy hair and McCarthy's overly-stylized coiffure - are displayed in excellent form. Pores and flesh tones in general look lifelike. Outdoor shots too ring with great color and fine detail. Black levels are solid, elegantly transitioning into shadows, which you'll notice in a dimly lit restaurant scene. And just like most Universal releases, this print contains no compression, alias, or banding. Even if the film doesn't satisfy from a comedic perspective, Universal proves once again that their commitment to the home release isn't bordered by strong box office receipts.

The Audio - 4/5
Universal's release for The Boss offers a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that's functional and at times a bit boisterous. The real strength of the track lies in its forward speakers, delivering clear and strong dialogue in the center channel, which is simply a bumped-up track of the master file. You can hear music and sound effects there as well, but Universal has all but pushed those down and bumped up the dialogue. The track comes more alive when the music plays, echoing from all four speakers, pushing the LFE with tons of thumping. You'll notice it mostly during Darnell's convention. There, one would have hoped the surrounds would have played a greater role, but there they also seem to pull back. Everything works here, although the overall effect could be greater. You probably won't even mind the inconsistency if you're listening to it on a soundbar, and depending on where you sit relative to your surrounds, you might not even notice the issue.

The Supplements - 3/5
Although it contains several supplements, including deleted and alternate scenes, a gag reel, and several featurettes The Boss is missing a commentary track, something that I believe is essential to a good home release. It's not that I need more proof as to why the director thinks McCarthy is a great comedian, but it's the only chance a director has to place a stamp on their work. So when something doesn't work - like this entire film - it's even harder to understand where the creative team lost their way. The release also includes two versions (theatrical - 1:38:48 and Unrated Version - 1:44:14) of the film , but as I mentioned above the new footage doesn't help. At least everything here is presented in HD:
  • Alternate Ending (2:00)
  • Deleted Scenes (14:10 ): Scenes include Convention Center Opening, White Sox, Claire Gets Hired at Her New Job, Claire Plays Chess with Rachel, Darnell Enterprises Building Lobby, Walking to Dandelion Meeting, Hallway Prior to Dandelion Meeting, Michelle Plays Chess with Rachel, Michelle Visits Tito, and Helipad Epilogue.
    Extended/Alternate Scenes (16:15): Bed Flip Scene Alternate, Carrot Top, They Do Look Moist, Kendo, Michelle Returns the Key, Security Guard - Extended, and Breaking Into Renault's - Extended.
  • Gag Reel (3:54)
  • Michelle Darnell - Original Sketch (7:25): If you want to see where McCarthy got the idea for the character, check out this recording from the Groundlings Theater. It's one of two very enlightening features here.
  • Origin Story (7:16): The other great featurette centers on how members of the cast and crew originally met at Groundlings Theater and how that set the stage for the film's creation. It includes a mix of original footage along with cast and crew interviews.
  • Peter Dinklage Gets to the Point (8:41): The character of Renault takes center stage as Peter Dinklage discusses how he brought his style to the role.
  • Everybody Loves Kristen Bell (6:50): The cast and crew carry on about how awesome Kristen Bell is to work with.

  • Our evaluation copy arrived as a Blu-ray/DVD Combo with a voucher for a UV/iTunes digital copy. There is no interior artwork, but the slipcase is nice enough. At the time of this posting, we were unaware of any special packaging.

    The Bottom Line - 3/5
    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. The home release shows off Universal's commitment to treat even comedies with the same love they do for much bigger-budgeted fare. But at its core, The Boss just isn't worth the price of purchase. This is not Spy, and you're advised to buy that one if you haven't yet. Much like Darnell's brownies, The Boss is 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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