Mark Reviews Movies

The Boss (2016)

THE BOSS (2016)

1  Stars (out of 4)

Director: Ben Falcone

Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Bell, Ella Anderson, Peter Dinklage, Tyler Labine, Kathy Bates, Timothy Simons, Cecily Strong, Kristen Schaal, Annie Mumolo

MPAA Rating: R (for sexual content, language and brief drug use)

Running Time: 1:39

Release Date: 4/8/16

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Review by Mark Dujsik | April 8, 2016

Of course Michelle Darnell (Melissa McCarthy), the business woman who becomes a felon who starts what really looks like a racket involving a group of young girls and baked goods, is a wounded soul. Obviously she can't help being a misanthrope and malcontent, because she had a difficult youth, and that has made her into the unapologetically disinterested and spiteful woman that she is today.

By now, we've seen this shtick so many times from McCarthy that it's becoming increasingly tough to remember that she can be really funny when she's hurling insults or being a grouch, and she can also be genuinely affecting when necessary, too. The Boss, her latest starring vehicle, once again gives her the insults, the bad attitude, and the sudden change of heart, and the whole routine feels stale.

It doesn't help that the movie itself seems to have been cobbled together from the rough outline of a plot and some on-set improvisation sessions by the cast. The movie clunks along, never seeming certain of where it's going but convinced that it will get somewhere. The climax features a swordfight between McCarthy and Peter Dinklage that occasionally turns into something resembling foreplay. Yes, the movie gets somewhere, all right.

Michelle begins the movie as a famous entrepreneur, the CEO of three large corporations, a best-selling author, and the 47th wealthiest woman in the world. Technically, she begins as an orphan, who's adopted and returned to the Catholic orphanage three times during her childhood because the parents don't think it's a "good match."

Character actress Margo Martindale plays the nun in charge of the place, and she has maybe two lines of dialogue. It's a surprise that she doesn't turn up again in any capacity, although perhaps her additional scenes were cut. That, of course, brings up the depressing thought that there were cuts made to material that either didn't work or fit into the movie. It's depressing because, if it's true, it means that what we see in the movie is the best, possible material with which director Ben Falcone had to work.

Michelle gets into legal trouble when her corporate rival/former lover Renault (Dinklage), as a way to get back at her for beating him to a deal, tips off the Securities and Exchange Commission to her insider trading. When she gets out of prison four months later, her assets have been seized by the government. Since she has lived a life of distancing herself from other people, she ends up staying with her former assistant Claire (Kristen Bell), a single mother raising her daughter Rachel (Ella Anderson).

The plot of McCarthy, Falcone, and Steve Mallory's screenplay involves Michelle planning her comeback by organizing a rival scout troop for girls to sell Claire's brownies (One of the movie's few chuckles involves her design of the logo and uniforms, which look like designs from a Soviet youth group). The girls get a commission, and another percentage of sales will go to a college fund for them. The movie skirts around where the majority of the money goes, because, well, it would make Michelle's business practices look even shadier than we already know them to be.

The jokes involve Michelle abusing adults and children alike. A group of former business partners dismiss her appeal for some help for obvious reasons, so she takes to insulting one man's wife, who just died. That scene ends with McCarthy taking a tumble down a flight of stairs. She takes especial pleasure from throwing barbs at the daughter of a scout volunteer, who gets it worse for daring to think that it might be a bad idea to have a convicted felon run a business that depends on child labor. That conflict climaxes with a massive brawl in the street, during which Michelle clotheslines the girl in question. There's an early scene involving teeth whitening that incorrectly supposes the sight of McCarthy's teeth and gums will be funny, and at another point, she's catapulted into a wall by a sofa bed, because random physical comedy seems to be the movie's go-to mode whenever a scene or plotline seems to be out of juice.

That happens often and, lest one forgets the swordplay/foreplay that resolves the movie, as a whole. In case one also happens to forget the opening bit with the orphanage, The Boss is also a movie that wants us to delight in the despicable behavior of the lead character, only to make excuses for her that undermine the entire point.

Copyright 2016 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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