The Boss (2016)

Watch your assets

On a Melissa McCarthy rating scale, The Boss isn’t as bad as say, Tammy (2014), but then again, it doesn’t reach the heights of last year’s Spy; a return-to-form for the 45-year-old actress. Co-scripting this riches-to-rags tale with her husband Ben Falcone, who also directs, the pair is probably to blame for the The Boss’ uneven tone and confusing premise, which sees adults clotheslining teenagers in bizarre street fights alongside schmaltzy messages about the importance of family.

'... and remember, if the house is nice, double the price.'
‘… and remember, if the house is nice, double the price.’

The Boss takes its cues from last year’s Get Hard (which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise seeing as this is a Gary Sanchez production), the focus being on Michelle Darnell (Melissa McCarthy), a self-made mogul who’s climbed all the way to the top thanks to her brutal go-getter attitude. With loyal assistant Claire (Kristen Bell) by her side, this financial rock star has been conquering the globe one day at a time after rising from the ashes like a phoenix (her spirit animal) to become the 47th-richest woman in the world. For Michelle however, building an empire hasn’t always been an easy road, the businesswoman having to step on many along the way, including her mentor Ida Marquette (Kathy Bates), and lover Renault (Peter Dinklage), the latter whom exposes an insider-trading incident that lands the powerful entrepreneur in jail. After serving several ‘grueling’ months in white-collar prison, Darnell learns that her assets have been frozen, this debt grounding her once lavish way of life.

With nowhere to go, Darnell tracks down her former assistant Claire who reluctantly agrees to let the turtleneck wearing tycoon crash at her apartment, which Claire shares with her daughter Rachel (Ella Anderson). In true Darnell fashion, the comeback-kid devises a crooked business model for a new venture, a brownie empire within Rachel’s Girl Scout-esque group, the Dandelions — a scheme that’s guaranteed to catapult Darnell back into the big leagues while giving Claire a real opportunity to build a solid future for her young one.

The chief pitfall in The Boss lies is within its titular character, the grotesquely exaggerated Michelle Darnell. Based on a persona McCarthy fashioned many years ago at The Groundlings (a Los Angeles-based improv troupe), the script builds Darnell as a cutthroat bigwig who’s developed a tough-as-nails exterior due to a rough childhood (rejected by potential adoptive families), this upbringing leading to her take-no-prisoners attitude, Darnell willing to crush anyone that gets in her way. A nasty piece of work, Darnell’s meanest moment (and one of the film’s funniest) involves a scene where she belittles a man’s dead wife. With that said, our anti-hero’s road to redemption is a perplexing one as this no-nonsense caricature — who punches children and swears excessively — must develop a sense of real-world altruism, this warmth being forced into proceedings before it’s quickly forgotten when the flick’s final act kicks into gear.

Some people have no boundaries ...
Some people have no boundaries …

Similarly, the screenplay points toward exploring the fickle nature of the modern-day celebrity with a commentary on fame and the power it wields, yet theses ideas get lost somewhere along the way. Even Darnell’s filthy-rich, kingpin nature is cast aside for a number of messy side plots that were undoubtedly pulled from various other (rejected) McCarthy/Falcone scripts — there’s a Girl Scouts cookie vs. brownie selling rivalry, a romantic deviation for Claire, an ‘80s throwback and a heist subplot which (I kid you not) culminates in a rooftop showdown involving samurai swords. Sheesh!

Either way, Melissa McCarthy shines when she’s portraying Darnell’s ruthlessness, particularly her ability to get away with pride and egotism, this spoof showcasing her comical intimidation (a scene where she’s wearing a cheek retractor thingamabob will certainly get the juices flowing). However this is juxtaposed against silly slapstick gags that see the wigged-up McCarthy tumbling down stairs or being hurled into a wall by a foldout couch, these physical antics working against the comedian’s strengths, somewhat deflating Darnell’s empowering demeanor as a result. Kristen Bell, Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008), isn’t given much to do alongside the over-characterized McCarthy either; sure Bell’s fit to play a mother-of-one, but she’s capable of so much more.

Fortunately, the majority of support players add a bit of zest in their minor parts. Peter Dinklage, Pixels (2015), is fun as business competitor Renault, Michelle’s former colleague and lover whose obsession with money and all things samurai is surpassed only by his deep-seated feelings towards Michelle (but what’s the deal with filmmakers constantly putting Dinklage in tacky wigs?) Tyler Labine, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (2010), steals a handful of scenes as Mike Beals, Claire’s love interest whereas Cecily Strong, The Bronze (2015), has a couple of good moments as Claire’s strict boss Dana Dandridge. Elsewhere, Annie Mumolo, This Is 40 (2012), does a great job as Helen, a rival mom from Rachel’s Girl Scout assembly who intends to put a stop to Darnell’s Darlings, Michelle’s homemade brownie empire. Then there’s the film’s director Ben Falcone who appears as a lawyer, clearly shoehorned into the picture for the sake of a single joke about the pair never getting intimate with one another.

The secret to success? A turtleneck and a dream ...
The secret to success? A turtleneck and a dream …

Look, as a whole, The Boss is perhaps another McCarthy/Falcone misfire — at least it’s not as bad as their last collaboration Tammy. You’ll laugh once or twice, but this is clearly the case of a capable cast working with second (or third) tier material, this clog preventing the picture from really finding its footing. Just like Darnell’s brownies, The Boss might taste okay, but it has very little nutritional value and is loaded with things that are probably bad for you, too.

2.5 / 5 – Alright

Reviewed by Mr. Movie

The Boss is released through Universal Pictures Australia