The 400 Word Review: The Boss
By Sean Collier
April 12, 2016
Believe that I feel like a jerk saying this. A total jerk. A cruel, heartless jerk. And yet — while I admittedly am operating on scant evidence — I am obliged to report the following.
Melissa McCarthy needs to stay the hell away from her husband.
I mean, professionally. I’m sure Ben Falcone is a lovely person. When it comes to the screen, though, he has directed and co-written (with McCarthy, admittedly) her two worst vehicles, 2014’s Tammy and the new fish-out-of-water comedy The Boss.
Neither Tammy nor The Boss are without their moments. McCarthy is simply too naturally funny — despite her reliance on physical humor, she’s best when delivering loose, seemingly improvised dialogue — to be on screen without eliciting the occasional guffaw. And The Boss, like Tammy, has a strong, funny cast (co-star Kristen Bell, Peter Dinklage, Kristen Schaal, Cecily Strong, Timothy Simons and more) to lean on.
Most of those players are badly underutilized, of course. And the physical humor is cheap, tired and frequent. But the core problem is a fundamentally unimaginative plot that can’t pick a tone.
McCarthy is Michelle Darnell, a Trump-esque business mogul who is busted for insider training by rival and former lover Renault (Dinklage). When she emerges from a jail stay to find her assets seized, she moves in with her former assistant, Claire (Bell), and conspires to rise back to prominence by out-gaming the Girl Scouts (not named as such) at the boxed treat racket.
Will The Boss be about female empowerment, the shattering of the traditional suburban upbringing, the ruthlessness of unchecked capitalism? No, of course not. It’ll be about the ho-hum emotional connection Darnell forms with Claire and her young daughter, and then it’ll build to a dumb-as-dirt, action-comedy climax involving a burglary and a sword fight.
As many jokes miss as hit, with a great number based around vulgarity and nothing else. Vitally, The Boss never managed to decide what sort of comedy it wanted to be. If it had been a surprisingly heartfelt story of connection and reinvention, that would’ve been okay; if it had been a madcap slapstick diversion, that would’ve been fine, too.
But instead, it’s a madcap slapstick diversion that occasionally tries to be a heartfelt story of connection and reinvention. I’m not sure who wants to make that movie.
I mean, Ben Falcone clearly does. Other than him, I don’t know.
My Rating: 5/10
Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at pittsburghmagazine.com/afterdark