Melissa McCarthy is flat-out hilarious. Her movies? Well, that's another story.
Throw “The Boss” onto the pile of recent McCarthy duds. It neither savages nor applauds capitalism. It squanders not just McCarthy’s talents but those of co-star Peter Dinklage. And, worst of all, it assumes the sight of pre-teens cursing up a storm is the height of hilarity.
Not even close.
Once more, McCarthy is responsible for the mess she’s made. She co-wrote the screenplay with her husband and frequent collaborator Ben Falcone. The duo should know better by now.
McCarthy stars as Michelle Darnell, a saucy Suze Orman type who gets busted for insider trading as the movie opens. A few months later, she’s out of the Big House but broke. So she flocks to her ex-assistant’s side for help.
Claire (Kristen Bell) begrudgingly opens her home to Michelle, and soon the ex-con is overtaking a local cookie sale. Those Dandelion Girl cookies just aren’t bringing in enough cash. Michelle can fix that, if she can earn Claire and her daughter’s trust.
The set up suggests either an up-with-capitalism comedy or a stinging assault on those evil one-percenters. Instead, we get Comedy Desperation 101. Expletives spill. Hackeneyed slapstick ensues. And, later, we see teen girls engage in a foul-mouthed gang fight in slow motion.
DID YOU KNOW: Melissa McCarthy met future husband Ben Falcone while working together in the Groundlings sketch comedy group.
Some directors can work wonders from those black comedy elements. Not Falcone, who directed this mess as well as co-wrote it. It’s uncomfortable to watch, especially for parents, as a gaggle of young actors talk dirty for our amusement.
Wasting resources is the film’s true recurring theme. We see Kathy Bates in two brief scenes, both shoehorned in as if in a last-minute editing decision. Who’s betting we’ll see more of Bates in the inevitable Blu-ray deleted scenes?
McCarthy remains an inspired comic. She’s so gifted she can make even movies like “The Boss” fitfully funny. She knows how to underplay a line for maximum humor, or to stretch a gag right up to the breaking point.
That’s talent. And it’s enough to make stretches of “The Boss” tolerable. Just not the entire third act. Michelle’s frenemy (Dinklage) crosses swords with her – literally – for an action-packed finale coated with flop sweat.
And should we be cheering for Michelle in the first place? She mocks a widower’s late wife, repeatedly curses around children and makes Claire’s kid watch “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”
Perhaps the oddest aspect of the film comes with the branding behind Michelle’s new business venture. It’s straight out of old Soviet Union art clippings. Satirical? Knuckle-headed? The movie hasn’t a clue.
In fact, McCarthy’s “Boss” character never comes into focus. She’s cuddly then cutthroat. She’s a former foster child who can’t connect with other people, and then she’s trying to make us weepy with an emotional third act plea.
DID YOU KNOW: Melissa McCarthy has her own fashion line dedicated to removing the “plus size” label and giving women of all sizes attractive clothes to wear.
The comedienne might be better served by that “Ghostbusters” reboot, in part because it’ll force her to avoid R-rated jokes. McCarthy needs more restraint in her work, apparently, as “The Boss” testifies anew.
Any ol’ actress can shove a fistful of cookies up another actress’ buttocks. McCarthy is better than that. But you wouldn’t always know it by “The Boss.”