On the surface, THE BOSS has the goods to make it winning material: pioneering comedic genius Melissa McCarthy starring as a disgraced Martha Stewart type, finding redemption as a leader for a group of underdog girl scouts. A kind of TROOP BEVERLY HILLS for the next generation, right? Sadly, as the run time ticks away, our hopes are dashed when this logline reveals itself to be just a dream. Big on character and small on motivation, plot and logic, director Ben Falcone’s comedy suffers from an identity crisis. If you thought it couldn’t get worse than TAMMY, Falcone and McCarthy give you THE BOSS!
Michelle Darnell (McCarthy) had a rough start. Passed around from foster home to foster home, ultimately returning to the care of a Catholic orphanage, she’s learned a thing or two from life – how to be self-serving. Her selfish, cutthroat attitude is the bedrock of her million dollar business empire. That is until she’s nabbed for insider trading and sent to white collar prison. With no ride from jail, no palatial estate, no friends, and no job, she seeks out the help of her former dutiful assistant/ single mom Claire (Kristen Bell). However, re-branding oneself as America’s Sweetheart is gonna take time, a troupe of pre-teen girls and a whole lot of brownies.
Similar to the noteworthy redeeming qualities of TAMMY (which you can read about here), THE BOSS has some redeeming qualities too – at least on paper. It’s great that screenwriters Falcone, McCarthy and Steve Mallory wanted to tell a story about a protagonist dealing with the consequences of their egocentricity. Only they don’t really do much with that premise. She ends up on a helipad and in a katana fight that leads to a make-out session – without learning anything. We’re told she has great business acumen, though the screenwriters never follow this idea through to the climax. Again, why should we when it ends on a sword fight. The narrative, which is less about structure and more about freeform and riffing, is filled with lots of stops and starts. We think we’ll get a redemption story… and no, it’s not really that. We think we’ll get a story about underdogs succeeding and triumphing over adversity (in the form of a mean mom played by Annie Mumolo) … and no, it’s not really that either. We think we’ll get a trite story about the value of family… and… wait. We do get that – and an almost innocuous BREAKFAST CLUB reference.
Perhaps the greatest problem is that, as a whole, the movie is utter nonsense. There are bloated chunks of the movie that add nothing to the narrative drive – which, as we established earlier, this film lacks in spades. Not only is the fugu sushi bit lifted from a very popular comedic source (THE SIMPSONS), the rapidly-escalating turf war between the scout troops is poorly mimeographed from another (ANCHORMAN). And the result doesn’t add up to anything particularly absurd, ludicrous or hilarious. Jokes and long-running gags arrive D.O.A. Michelle’s antagonist, ex-boyfriend/ business partner Rennault (played broadly by Peter Dinklage), isn’t much of an adversary. Similar to TAMMY, tone varies wildly, as do character motivations. Michelle’s predictable change feels disingenuous. Also similar to Falcone and McCarthy’s last cinematic outing, McCarthy falls back on playing the same role she’s literally played out – which is disappointing since she’s demonstrated she can be much more than an abrasive, over-confident and obnoxious blowhard. SPY should have been a positive turning point for her choice of roles. Again I must ask, “why is she limiting herself?”
Look, I can only assume the best products of the Falcone/ McCarthy marriage are not the fruits of their cinematic labors together, but rather her actual labor – i.e. their kids (who, incidentally, make cameo appearances in this film). Quite frankly, this movie is a waste of everyone’s time – the actors, the crew and the audience. It’s not like the cast or crew was getting paid “swimming pool installation” money to make making this film even worth their while. As it stands, THE BOSS isn’t very boss.
1 out of 5
THE BOSS opens on April 8.