THE BOSS 5 out of 10; Directed by Ben Falcone; Written by Ben Falcone, Melissa McCarthy and Steve Mallory; Starring Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Bell, Ella Anderson, Peter Dinklage and Tyler Labine; Rated R for sexual content, language and brief drug use; Running time 99 minutes. In wide release April 8.
Rarely have I seen a film more unsure of what it wants to be than “The Boss.” One-part raunchy comedy, one-part heartfelt drama with just a splash of a kung-fu movie thrown in for good measure, it jumps around so much that it never takes the time to fully develop any one part of its story. This is a shame because the cast is talented and deliver some great, albeit spaced out, laugh out loud moments. Unfortunately, that’s not enough to make up for the shortcomings which leaves “The Boss” less than the sum of its parts.
Michelle Darnell (Melissa McCarthy) was a successful and ruthless businesswoman until her jilted ex-boyfriend/rival, Renault (Peter Dinklage), turned her in to the SEC for insider trading. Finally out of prison, Darnell finds that her empire has collapsed, her assets are frozen and she is about to end up on the street. In a last ditch attempt, she contacts her old executive assistant, Claire (Kristen Bell), and begs for a little bit of help until she gets back on her feet. Claire reluctantly agrees to let Darnell crash on her couch until she can get her affairs in order. Darnell soon discovers that Claire is an excellent baker and creates a business venture between the two of them to help support young women and also make a pretty penny for themselves in return.
For a movie that’s supposed to be a comedy, there are vast expanses of time when nothing remotely funny happens on screen. Which isn’t to say that the movie isn’t chock full of jokes and sight gags just that a lot of them fall flat and don’t elicit the response they were hoping for. Melissa McCarthy is normally a hoot, but she needs to stop allowing her husband, Ben Falcone, to direct her movies. Just as in “Tammy”, he doesn’t know how to handle her which means she goes “full McCarthy” a little too often, which is funny the first time but annoying the ninth. In all honesty, she and Paul Feig just need to make a pact to do all the rest of their movies together as they always bring out the best in each other a la “Bridesmaids” and “Spy”, and it would have been interesting to see what he could have done with this movie. Oh well, at least “Ghostbusters” is almost here.
It also doesn’t help that the film jumps around so much tonally that it’s hard to know when it’s playing sentiment for laughs or because it’s actually trying to make a point. There’s nothing wrong with a good dramedy, but when the main character is showing off her vagina in one scene, how are we supposed to know that her apologizing for being such a horrible person in the next is genuine? It’s all rather confusing and feels like there were originally two different scripts, and the writers randomly copy and pasted parts of each together.
On a positive note, Kristen Bell is an absolute sweetheart here, and both she and her daughter, Ella Anderson, have great chemistry and play off each other wonderfully. Their relationship is heartfelt and one really gets the sense that these two could even be family in real life.
The best part of this movie goes to the small role of Bell’s coworker/love interest who is played by Tyler Labine who we all know and love from “Tucker and Dale vs. Evil.” Equal parts “aw-shucks” charm combined with great comic timing and a willingness to do whatever it takes for a laugh, Labine steals every scene and proves that subtlety outshines and out performs brashness.
Sadly, this is again another performance where Peter Dinklage is grating and annoying. You’re a fantastic actor; quit letting yourself get drawn into projects that don’t fit you.
Is “The Boss” horrible? No, and there are enough funny moments to get the audience through it, but it’s plagued by mediocrity. All the actors were obviously having fun, and that joy does show through in the final product, but it’s unfortunate that it wasn’t handled by a more skillful filmmaker. Had it focused on being one kind of movie and had someone who knew how to handle McCarthy at the reigns, this would have been fantastic. Instead everyone will have forgotten about it two months from now.