By Bob Garver
“The Boss” is a movie that features a montage of a girl being dumped on an orphanage, Melissa McCarthy break-dancing, an extended mouth-spreader gag, awkward flirting and dating, that gag you’ve seen in the trailers where McCarthy gets launched into a wall by a sofa bed, a crude term for a female fan of Benedict Cumberbatch, a Girl Scout battle royal, a female chest-slapping fight, an adult showing a child “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” a possible poisoning via puffer fish, an exaggerated take on what a burglary will look like, Peter Dinklage in a katana fight, a gross makeout session, and lots and lots of profanity. Some of these are good ideas for gags, some of them aren’t, but most of them aren’t as funny as they could be none of them are connected to each other very well.
McCarthy stars as Michelle Darnell, millionaire businesswoman and celebrity mogul. In climbing to the top, she took a few shortcuts like stabbing people in the back and dabbling in insider trading. She goes to prison and forfeits most of her assets. She has nowhere to go upon release, and has to move in with her harried former assistant Claire (Kristen Bell) and her daughter Rachel (Ella Anderson). She discovers that Girl Scouts make millions of dollars a year selling cookies, that Claire makes a killer brownie, and that most of the moms in Rachel’s troop are mean. She hatches a business plan: use the Girl Scouts to sell Claire’s brownies and do it independently of the troop so the moms will regret being mean to her. Her nemesis Renault (Dinklage) tries to stop her, even though he’s pretty much already won by ratting her out to the feds.
The script for this movie needed to be a lot tighter, both in structure and in dialogue. Plot threads come and go without much consequence (is it really that hard to keep aggressive Girl Scouts in your story?), and entire characters are wasted. Margo Martindale plays a nun and the movie can’t think of a single funny thing for her to do. Kathy Bates plays McCarthy’s mentor, and the character exists for no other reason than to get Kathy Bates into this movie. As for the dialogue, the actors are given too much free reign to improvise, and the result is a lot of rambling that makes every scene feel too long.
Sometimes the unrestricted dialogue ruins good gags, like with the slap-fight that needed to be more spontaneous or the potentially sweet relationship between Claire and her initially-charming boyfriend (Tyler Labine) that gives way to grating clunkiness. Sometimes the dialogue makes bad gags worse. The nickname for Cumberbatch fans isn’t funny the first time, and repeating it doesn’t make it funnier, elsewhere it’s not funny to see McCarthy wearing a mouth-spreader or with her face paralyzed from puffer fish, but the movie thinks it’s funny to keep her talking with her face contorted. And some gags don’t work for other reasons, like how I simply don’t see how a couch bed could launch women into a wall. It’s not one of those Murphy beds that folds down from the wall, it’s a couch bed, it can only collapse in on itself.
“The Boss” is directed by Ben Falcone, McCarthy’s real-life husband. Maybe that explains the film’s poor pacing, he can’t bear to cut away from his love. They previously worked together on “Tammy,” a film so miserable it makes this one much more bearable by comparison. Occasionally here a physical gag will work, like the opening break-dancing or the bloodthirsty Girl Scouts, but still, almost everything spoken falls flat. “The Boss” is about as much fun as having to go into work on a day off.
One and a Half Stars out of Five.
“The Boss” is rated R for sexual content, language and brief drug use. Its running time is 99 minutes.