A film review by Craig J. Koban April 17, 2016

 

THE BOSS j

2016, R, 99 mins.

 

Melissa McCarthy as Michelle Darnell  /  Peter Dinklage as Renault  /  Kristen Bell as Claire  /  Tyler Labine as Mike  /  Parker Young as Moisa  /  Ella Anderson as Rachel  /  Annie Mumolo as Helen  /  Timothy Simons as Stephan

Directed by Ben Falcone  Written by Ben Falcone, Steve Mallory, and Melissa McCarthy

I don’t hate Melissa McCarthy.  I really don’t, contrary to what many of you may think.  She’s talented.  That much is clear. 

Yet, I’ve grown to despise what’s developing into a laundry list of witless, puerile, and dreadfully unfunny comedies that’s she’s written, starred in, and co-produced.  Cringe inducing, laugh-free endurance tests of will like the grotesquely awfully TAMMY and the equally wretched IDENTITY THIEF wallowed in portraying the same tired and overused version of the obligatory McCarthy comedic character – outwardly atrocious, toxically dislikeable, and verbally abusive slobs that, deep down, just want to be understood and loved because – gosh darn it! – they're really nice souls with deeply hidden emotional wounds.  I’m tired of watching the actress lazily parade around in film after film playing the same sort of clueless, foul mouthed, and aggressively insolent clown.  Even though recent films like SPY and ST. VINCENT were reasonable steps in the right career direction for her, along comes the shockingly tedious and paper thinly plotted THE BOSS to erode any more good will I could toss her way.  In anything, McCarthy is just going back to the character well again. 

Her newest snooze-inducing film masquerading as a howl-inducing comedy – regrettably directed by TOMMY helmer Ben Falcone, also McCarthy’s hubbie – shows a modicum of promise early on in establishing the origins of the main character…but that promise erodes pretty damn quickly.  Michelle Darnell (McCarthy) had a sad and impoverished upbringing in an orphanage; her childhood and adolescence were essentially an uphill battle of trying to find foster parents that wanted her in their sights for longer than a day.  Realizing at a tender teenage period of her life that she’s had enough relying on others, she decides that she will only rely on herself going forward.  Flashforward a few decades and we meet up with Michelle as she’s become a self made, Fortune 500 millionaire and CEO of her own company that specializes in dishing out financial advice to her legions of adoring fans.  Life seems to have hit a high plateau of personal and financial success for her, but fate steps in rather quickly when the Feds show up at her door and charge her with insider trading, mostly because of the meddling of a bitter ex-boyfriend and tycoon Renault (a depressingly unfunny Peter Dinklage).  She’s promptly sent to prison and has all of her assets locked as a result.   

 

 

With her reign of business power over, Michelle is released from prison after serving her sentence and emerges as a rather broken woman.  She immediately seeks out a roof to place over her head by promptly showing up at the doorstep of her former assistant Claire (a bland and distracted Kristen Bell), but the latter seems initially hesitant to allow her remarkably demanding and domineering ex-employer in her home (the screenplay never actually provides a logical reason why Claire would ever let this crude and obnoxious woman stay with her for longer than five minutes without being unceremoniously booted out).  At her absolute rock bottom, Michelle develops a fascination with the business model of selling Girl Guide Cookies, mostly after attending a meeting with Claire’s daughter (Ella Anderson).  Realizing that most of the money for selling the cookies doesn’t go into the Girl Guide seller’s pocket, Michelle concocts a scheme to start her own young girl troupe called “The Dandelions” to sell Claire’s homemade fudge brownies to put her back on financial track.  Of course, just when her newfound financial empire is taking off, Renault swoops in and threatens to take it all away from her…again. 

THE BOSS hones its satiric crosshairs on some potentially intriguing targets, like mercilessly aggressive big fish businesswomen and the whole nature of the Girl Guide cookie selling empire.  Unfortunately, the film has neither the inclination or the nerve to mock its intended targets with any wit or dry sarcasm, mostly because of its steadfast determination to be a shrill and one note exhibition for McCarthy’s hackneyed tomfoolery.  One of the biggest problems with THE BOSS is…well…McCarthy herself, who proves yet again that she’s often her own worst enemy in these types of comedic vanity projects.  Much like the characters that populated TAMMY and IDENTITY THIEF, Michelle here is rarely an agreeable person that deserves our rooting interest.  She’s chronically self-serving, egoistical, amoral, and has a disturbing potty mouth that would make Quentin Tarantino wince.  There are hardly any moments In THE BOSS when Michelle even comes off as a fully realized human being: she’s essentially a cartoonish buffoon and crude caricature, played for maximum, teeth grating broadness by McCarthy.  When the film does try to impart some dramatic pathos in Michelle’s life and craves for viewers to sympathize with her, it feels like a sick and twisted bit of bait and switch; it’s almost like the movie’s cheating. 

You can’t have a movie that has scenes of Michelle insultingly screaming at others to “suck my d—k!” and have other instances of her failing down a flight of stairs in a moment of lame slapstick and then later ask us to identify with her behavioral issues as part of a dark subjected trauma of growing up as an orphan.  THE BOSS never once earns such huge tonal shifts, nor does it even make a compelling or plausible case to make us like Michelle in the slightest.  Her ultimate transformation from a bitch-in-heels tycoon to an affable and carefree family woman is never, ever remotely credible during the course of the story, nor is the film’s woefully ridiculous climax that features – I kid you not – a sword fight involving a katana set in Renault’s penthouse offices.  Peter Dinklage is a supremely gifted dramatic actor, but watching him debase himself in comedies like PIXELS and now THE BOSS is beyond mortifying.  He's simply not in his comfort zone here at all. 

Then there’s Kristen Bell, a limitlessly appealing actress that is saddled with a supporting role that anyone capable of standing upright and with a pulse could have pulled off.  Seeing good performers wasted is probably not the biggest sin that THE BOSS commits, though.  Scatological and profane gags, dreadfully over-the-top performances, and half-hearted themes about the importance of family and feeling loved aside, the film mournfully churns out yet another clichéd McCarthy character that displays an actress that’s pathetically willing to do any debasing thing to score big chuckles...and fails pretty miserably at doing so.  There’s an early scene that typifies this film’s utter desperation to inspire laughter, during which time Michelle and her Dandelions squad have an ANCHORMAN-esque street brawl with a group of Girl Guiders.  Hardy-fricking-har.  Watching young girls pound each other to a pulp is not funny in the slightest, nor is the sight of seeing adults physically beat down on children.  THE BOSS heartlessly bludgeons viewers with its unwavering mediocrity for 90-plus minutes.  

It's a movie that's 90 minutes too long. 

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