It’s funny to think that the woman who I grew up knowing as the sweet, sugary Sookie St. James in The Gilmore Girls has somehow become one of the most sought after, bankable stars in Hollywood over the past few years. By today’s industry standards, Melissa McCarthy is pretty much the antithesis of what a ‘successful’ leading lady should be, she’s not a size zero and she’s not 25 years old, but with hit after hit the actress has proven that she is a shining star. Would The Boss, written by McCarthy herself an directed by her husband Ben Falcone, be another picture in the plus column like The Heat and Spy, or would it fall short like, in my opinion at least, Tammy or Identity Thief?
Ultimately, I would have to say that the film falls very much in the middle, nowhere near as funny as the former examples but not as poor as the latter. The Boss tells the story of Michelle Darnell (McCarthy), an orphan who is driven by rejection in her childhood to become one of the richest and most successful business women in America. After a conviction for insider trading leaves with her with a prison record and lost fortune, Michelle turns to her former assistant Claire (Kristen Bell) for support and together they start a brownie selling business to rival the local Girl Scout type organisation. The overriding criticism of the film, one that can not be overcome, is that it simply isn’t funny enough. Though there are certainly specific set pieces and brief passages of dialogue that raise a wry chuckle, the success ratio of laughs per gag is significantly lower than some other of McCarthy’s recent outings, with the film feeling less like a rounded picture and more like an opportunity for the lead actress to showcase her comedic talents. There is no doubt that Melissa McCarthy is a funny, funny woman, but this does not translate on screen when everything else around her is either plain flat or just down right cringe worthy. Alongside the hit and miss comedy of the picture, something that also doesn’t help it is the rather bizarre business based narrative that is at its heart. With talk of insider trading and a poorly explained business rivalry with an antagonist played by Peter Dinklage, a lot of the film is based around actions that are not really that engaging for the audience. What people have paid their money to see is Melissa McCarthy doing what Melissa McCarthy does best, and the weird business angle of the plot sometimes feels like it restricts her freedom to be truly kooky, which is strange seeing as she wrote the screenplay. Ultimately, there is nothing to get over excited about, but equally there is nothing that will make you regret watching, The Boss is just another in a long line of comedy films that fills its quota of mediocre chuckles, throws in a handful of belly laughs, but leaves nothing particularly memorable after you have left the movie theatre. Give or take a few genuinely humorous exchanges between characters, the film just flies by without really making a mark, unremarkable is certainly the defining word.
Written by the actress herself and directed by her husband, The Boss was clearly envisioned to showcase all of the best talents that Melissa McCarthy has, and whilst her performance as Michelle Darnell certainly gives the audience some of the classic McCarthy slapstick and risqué one liners, there is just something about the very essence of the character that doesn’t allow McCarthy to really reach full flow. Kristen Bell gives a solid if not slightly forgettable performance as Claire, though her acting as a dowdy single mother is undermined by that fact that she is clearly more beautiful than most normal women! In truth, some of the most enjoyable scenes in the film are those in which McCarthy and Bell get to spar with and react off one another, and it feels like a lot of the biggest laughs may have come from in the moment improvisation rather than what was printed on the script. Peter Dinklage is fine actor, we know this from his work on Game Of Thrones, but he cheapens himself in The Boss, even further than his work in Pixels, as it feels like his ‘villain’ character Renault only exists so that his diminutive size can be compared in a comical way to McCarthy’s own size, a perfectly fine comic approach, but definitely a waste of a great actor.
Overall, The Boss is a rather strange film that appears to be a total Melissa McCarthy vehicle without ever really managing to show her off in her very best light. Though it certainly possesses enough humour to be an acceptable pick on a cozy night in, if you want something with more substance and more frequent laughs, I suggest you go for The Heat or Spy instead.