The Boss (2016)
Directed by: Ben Falcone
Premise: A ruthless and successful business woman (Melissa McCarthy) is convicted of insider trading and loses her empire. When she’s released from prison, the fallen magnate partners with her former assistant (Kristen Bell) to build a new business.
What Works: There is the nub of a good movie buried within The Boss. Kristen Bell is cast as a former executive assistant who learns to take risks and become her own woman. Bell is a good but underestimated actress; she frequently shows up in lead roles in terrible movies like Hit and Run or she’s limited to supporting parts in better movies like Forgetting Sarah Marshall. But Kristen Bell is far more capable of leading a film than she’s been given credit for and had The Boss centered on Bell’s character it might have been a much more interesting film. As it is, Bell is a likable presence in the movie, oftentimes a relief from the obnoxiousness going on around her, and she is the point of identification and sympathy for the audience. The character also has a likable relationship with her daughter played by Ella Anderson.
What Doesn’t: Despite creating a sympathetic and engaging character in Kristen Bell’s executive assistant turned small business owner, the filmmakers of The Boss contort the movie to frame it around Melissa McCarthy’s character. This was a poor choice and it sabotages the movie from the get-go. There is a curious problem in Melissa McCarthy’s filmography. She became a movie star in 2011’s Bridesmaids and since then she is often spoken about in press notices and by many film critics as a contemporary comedy superstar. But that image doesn’t hold up against her filmography. Despite a few successes like Spy, a lot more of McCarthy’s efforts have been mediocre or terrible such as The Heat, Identity Thief, and Tammy. What’s more, the titles that Melissa McCarthy has co-written and are directed by her husband Ben Falcone are among her worst movies and The Boss is another failed McCarthy-Falcone production. The Boss is not funny. Its sense of humor is lame. The most inspired joke of The Boss involves McCarthy sleeping on a couch that flings her across the room. Apparently the filmmakers thought this was so funny that they use it multiple times. This is essentially the same joke as the airbag gag in Neighbors and The Boss borrows liberally from other comedies. At one point two groups of young girls and their mothers get into a street fight that is virtually a carbon copy of the brawl from Anchorman. But most of the attempts at humor involve McCarthy’s character being mean and saying inappropriate things to other people. There is nothing necessarily wrong with being crass. Many great comedies have vulgar humor. But cursing isn’t funny it itself and McCarthy and Falcone don’t have any comic ideas beyond that. Too bad because The Boss is a missed opportunity. McCarthy’s character has some obvious parallels to real life figures such as Donald Trump and Martha Stewart and Jordan Belfort. The film is primed to lampoon those figures but it doesn’t do anything with its most obvious potential. In fact, The Boss doesn’t really do much of anything at all. The story is all over the place. Comedies tend to get more latitude in their storytelling than other genres because humor requires unpredictability. But even wacky movies have to make some internal sense. The Boss jerks its characters all over the place and the filmmakers concoct arbitrary plot developments to fabricate conflict. That’s exemplified by a bizarre subplot involving a rival businessman played by Peter Dinklage. It is as though he came from another film and the finale of The Boss becomes a different movie entirely but still not a funny one.
Bottom Line: The Boss is another terrible project featuring Melissa McCarthy. The movie alternates between dullness and obnoxiousness with McCarthy hamming it up in an effort to distract us from the fact that there’s nothing holding this movie together.
Episode: #592 (April 24, 2016)