Sell Low on the Toothless Comedy of ‘The Boss’

GameStop, Inc.

the-boss-002

A sizable portion of the American public feels duped by white collar criminals. After all, they brought down the world economy in 2008 and have felt no real repercussions aside from a little harsh rhetoric from the political left. So if there’s a comedy about a white collar criminal facing some kind of punishment for running afoul of the law, we should be able to laugh at that, right? You’d certainly hope so. However, The Boss, the new comedy starring Melissa McCarthy and directed by her husband Ben Falcone, leaves the laughs few and far between in its rather rote story of an affluent criminal who falls from the top only to find their heart at the bottom. Aside from the rampant profanity of McCarthy’s character, The Boss is a toothless comedy that goes after its subjects with kiddie gloves, if even at all.

McCarthy is Michelle Darnelle, a Suze Orman-like financial guru who preaches that personal relationships are the antithesis to success. She believes this because the film opens with a young Michelle being repeatedly returned to the orphanage she came from. Why she keeps being rejected by would be parents isn’t fully explained, though we’re supposed to assume it happens because of who she is when she’s older – brash, arrogant, and profane. If there is any humor in a child being routinely rejected, McCarthy and Falcone can’t find it. Michelle speaks to sold out arenas of hungry capitalists who eat up her every word. When not on stage or in front of the cameras, Michelle is casually cold towards her assistant Claire (Kristen Bell), a single mother and professional doormat.

Michelle’s empire crumbles when her long-standing enemy in commerce Renault (Peter Dinklage), also a former colleague and lover, reports her for insider trading. Her accounts are frozen. Her assets are seized. She’s forced to spend four months in a country club jail. Somehow, Michelle has faced the harshest punishment ever levied for insider trading.

Upon her release, Michelle finds herself at Claire’s doorstep, and begins staying with her former assistant and her young daughter Rachel (Ella Anderson). While Claire is bogged down with her new job, Michelle winds up accompanying Rachel to her Dandelion (just think Girl Scouts) meeting. Inspired by this young girl group’s efforts in selling cookies as a fundraiser, Michelle starts her own girls club, Darnell’s Darlings. She’ll sell Claire’s homemade brownies and will boost her club’s membership by offering commission on sales. Of course, the brownies become a success, and Michelle’s selfish habits revert back to their default settings before she learns a lesson.

A comedy can get around an unimaginative story if it can at least deliver its fair share of hearty laughs, but The Boss can’t even pull that off. The few gags that do work in the film run on well past their point of effectiveness. Even worse, the gags that don’t work also run on for far too long. Melissa McCarthy is capable of getting a laugh here and there with the occasional sharp and vulgar insults, but those are seldom as effective as intended. Spirted supporting performances from Dinklage, Timothy Simmons, and Annie Mumolo fall flat, leaving the audience stone-faced all too often for over 90 minutes.

That flat feeling that permeates throughout The Boss starts on the page, with the script by McCarthy, Falcone, and Steve Mallory. The movie wants us to laugh at Michelle’s awfulness but consistently tries to find purpose in her faults, and is obliged to conclude everything with a redemption arc. The Boss also refuses to use its premise to skew capitalism, which would be quite apt considering the film is about a privatized form of the Girl Scouts. Time and time again, the filmmakers behind The Boss refuse to comment on the culture that would foster betrayals in the name of business.

As a fan of Melissa McCarthy’s work, The Boss is nothing but a disappointment. As great as their chemistry is in their personal life, Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone haven’t been able to make that translate on the big screen. Between this and Tammy, perhaps they need to go their separate ways creatively. The only thing shocking about The Boss is just how conventional it is. This is one of those comedies that thinks varying forms of profanity are better than actual jokes. It’s all laissez-faire in The Boss, but as we’ve seen elsewhere, that sometimes can have ruinous consequences.

The Boss
  • Overall Score
1.5

Summary

Predictable and unfunny, The Boss squanders the comedic talents of Melissa McCarthy in this profane yet toothless comedy.

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