Melissa McCarthy may be one of the most divisive actresses working today. Her fervent fanbase loves the foul-mouthed, Chris Farley-esque physicality of her comedy, while her detractors claim that she is a one-note comedienne whose tired schtick has run its course and then some. For better or worse, The Boss, the newest effort from McCarthy and her husband/co-writer/director Ben Falcone, adds nothing new to this argument. You’ll either love it or hate it, depending entirely on your feelings about Melissa McCarthy. If you aren’t firmly in the “love it” camp, The Boss’s consciously ludicrous flaws will likely be insurmountable.
The Boss revolves around Michelle Darnell (McCarthy), a lifetime orphan whose chip on her shoulder has fueled her unquenchable thirst for success. She is the billionaire CEO of three Fortune 500 companies. Michelle is also a horribly shrewd businesswoman; she has used success to combat her loneliness and is willfully unaware of how she treats other people, especially her assistant, Claire (Kristen Bell). That is, until she gets indicted for insider training (rookie move?) and is sentenced to prison.
When Michelle gets out, her assets have been seized and her lack of friends has left her with nowhere to go but to Claire’s, now a working mother stuck in a job she hates just to support her daughter. Claire’s huge heart (and Michelle’s direct insistence) puts the three together in Claire’s apartment, where they eventually make amends and start a for-profit version of the Girl Scouts to sell Claire’s brownies. With Michelle’s killer instinct and Claire’s delicious recipe, they build a brownie empire that gets the attention of Renault (Peter Dinklage), Michelle’s eccentric billionaire ex-boyfriend. As the stakes get higher, Michelle must un-stunt her emotional growth to overcome Renault’s increasing advances.
Really, The Boss’s plot purely serves as window dressing to get from one McCarthy sight gag and/or foul-mouthed rant to the next. That isn’t to say that it is unfunny; there are quite a few laughs to be found here. But in no way is The Boss trying to be anything more than the cliche that has clasped the golden handcuffs onto McCarthy’s career. Kristen Bell is, as always, a delight; Claire is a perfect foil for McCarthy’s crass and downright mean-spirited Michelle. Ella Anderson, the young actress who plays Claire’s daughter, is similarly sweet and captivatingly honest in her portrayal of the bittersweet relationship between her and McCarthy’s character. Additionally, Michelle’s arc is surprisingly effective, despite absolutely ludicrous plot developments. But in a movie that is rife with deliberate absurdity, it gets more and more difficult to blissfully separate the inspired stupidity from the simply stupid, and by the time we reach the climax of The Boss, it definitely feels like the latter.
Melissa McCarthy fans will find plenty to like in The Boss, but it is also not a great movie; not nearly as good as McCarthy’s last comedy, Spy. It offers quite a few laughs without being anything extraordinary. It’s a rental.
The Boss opens in Philly theaters today.