5 July 2016 | bkrauser-81-311064
These Brownies are Burnt
I really hate it when bad movies happen to good people. Despite bursting onto the entertainment scene with a killer supporting role in Bridesmaids (2011) and a star turn in Mike & Molly (2010- present), Melissa McCarthy has struggled to find material truly worthy of her talent. She's a reliable box office draw and can be trusted to perform exceptionally well with an assortment of interesting characters so why is she constantly being saddled with wafer-thin plots, broad and boring scripts and paint-by-numbers directorial choices? Is it pride; risk aversion; nepotism?
The Boss is the story of Michelle Darnell (McCarthy) a larger-than- life business tycoon, who looses it all for insider trading and is forced to start from the bottom once more. Armed only with a mega- maniacal ego and aided by her former assistant turned partner Claire (Bell), Darnell desperately tries to claw her way up to the top of Chicago's industry professionals. Undermining her at every turn however, are a multitude of former colleagues and competition who will stop at nothing to keep her at bay. Her most nefarious foe is Renault (Dinklage) a former lover whose obsession with Darnell is rivaled only by his obsession with the ways of the Samurai.
McCarthy (predictably) does a stellar job channeling her inner Trump. The story begins with Darnell as a young girl being dropped off a number of times by would-be adoptive parents which, while being a lazy setup does give the audience a reference point in which to pin our aspirations. McCarthy takes that baton and runs with it; fleshing out the broadly drawn character into one you could imagine exists in real life. You're never made privy as to why everyone hates her and abandons her (other than Renault) though I suppose one could gleam such insights by her unofficial motto "Family is for suckers." Also despite once again being a lazy setup, the emotional payoff by the end isn't exactly deserved, but thanks to McCarthy's sensitivity she at least saves it from being offensively ham-fisted.
One can't help but think there was a much better comedy left on the cutting room floor here. There are extended moments of improvisation that go no where, and could have been sacrificed for the sake of filling in plot-lines that are dropped or disappear into the ether. One particular plot-line surreptitiously involves Kathy Bates as Darnell's former sensei Ida Marquette who despises her but we never find out why. You'd think with two very talented actresses a moment of catharsis could have been captured on film but instead we get five minutes of McCarthy and Cedric Yarbrough taunting Claire for being the smartest gal in the room.
Speaking of Kristen Bell; the former Veronica Mars (2004-2007) star plays a variation of the nagging, humorless, smarter-than-thou wife we've seen in hundreds in sitcoms and comedic vehicles. Her character is so irredeemably oppressive and boring that when Claire and Darnell have the third act falling out we all know is coming, I was less worried about what would happen to her than I was about why no one was standing in front of Chicago's Cloud Gate sculpture during the film's wistful montage. Her character arc completes itself with a budding romance with Mike (Labine) that was neither interesting nor convincing.
Yet despite all it's faults, the movie achieves what it set out to achieve, that is to say it makes it's audience laugh and laugh often. This is largely accomplished on the strength of bawdy R-rated humor and McCarthy's shrewd comic timing. Peter Dinklage, who gives a particularly daffy performance, has a lot of fun riffing, joking and tumbling with McCarthy, thus saving the film's third act contrivance from completely ruining the movie. The Boss is certainly not worth the price of admission unless you're already a fan of Melissa McCarthy. Yet for those already annoyed by her shenanigans, The Boss is just further confirmation that she's simply playing to the Plebes.