It looks like director Ben Falcone has another dud on his hands. After the cinematic-airball that was Tammy in 2014, he has now dropped The Boss onto our laps with little ceremony or charisma. The one saving grace of the film is that occasionally Falcone lets his wife, Melissa McCarthy, run her mouth for a bit. Even with McCarthy’s comedic proclivity, The Boss cannot be saved.
The Boss starts off with a humorous montage of what should be a heartbreaking occurrence. Michelle (McCarthy) is shown in flashback, multiple times, being returned by her prospective families to the catholic orphanage where she was raised. Though it is played for laughs, and the sequence of pop-music corresponding to the passage of time is peppy, it is easy to see the real hurt these rejections cause Michelle. We then fast forward to a major speaking engagement in the present day where Michelle is the star. She has become the 47th richest woman in America and now supplements her vast wealth with inspiring others to go out there and make their millions. She rides into the arena of cheering fans on a golden phoenix to pumping hip hop. At the end of the talk she is whisked away to the rooftop helipad to head home. There she encounters an adversary, Renault (Peter Dinklage) who refers to himself as a ninja and avoids using modern technology.
Herein lies one of the bigger issues with The Boss: It tells you why a character is complicated and interesting, rather than actually bothering to create a character who is actually complicated and interesting. The ninja and technological issues in Renault are just applied to the actor like a vinyl sticker, and the superficiality of the character development makes for a laboring and forced plot. Every other character suffers from this “tell don’t show” approach to their development, which just feels empty.
Moving along: Michelle is turned in by Renault for insider trading (which she is absolutely guilty of) and after five months of white collar prison she is returned to the wild of Chicago to start from scratch. The only person who has ever stuck by Michelle is her now ex-assistant Claire (Kristen Bell). Between Michelle’s inability to get close to people and show open emotion and Claire’s hang-ups about being a stressed single mom trying to have it all, it is not surprise that they go into business together. They decide to take on the cookie world by selling brownies door-to-door, and empowering young girls to make money and be self-reliant. Predictably the business venture goes well, until it doesn’t. You get the picture.
Rather than continuing to harp on the predictable and trite plot in The Boss, it should be noted that there are some honestly funny moments in the film. There is a lot of physical comedy, including a tennis ball to the throat, which absolutely works here. Best of all, there are certain scenes where McCarthy is allowed to unleash a torrent of obscenities and insults, both towards young children and about them, and these bits are honestly funny. Michelle’s complete lack of filter makes her the type of character you simultaneously wish you never meet in real life but also really want to see as an insult comic too.
Regrettably these decently witty dialogues are plopped into scenes in which the characters are all acting like they are in different movies. Claire is the solid straight women, showing restraint and a glimmer of reason, which Michelle needs in order to keep her verbal assaults rolling. But then right there would be Renault, acting like a satire of a Bond villain. Or two warring Girl Scout-esque troops rumbling in an all-out battle for cookie-turf in the Chicago streets. The wavering between absurd and realistic never really settles or feels authentic in The Boss. It just feels noncommittal and under-directed.
The Boss never truly settles on what type of movie it wants to be. Unfortunately this indecision, along with numerous other missteps, leaves is with an atonal mess, with a few respectable laughs mixed in.
Director: Ben Falcone
Film Length: 99 minutes
Release Date: April 8, 2016
Distributor: Universal Pictures