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The Boss (2016)
Movie Reviews

The Boss (2016)

Buries McCarthy’s natural charm under predictable embittered fat lady shtick and predictable jokes.

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The Boss stars Melissa McCarthy as successful businesswoman Michelle Darnell, an orphaned youngster inadvertently cast as an undesirable when her various foster families return her to where she came from. It’s no surprise that as an adult Darnell has found her calling as a cold and jaded ultra-rich business mogul reluctant to partake in even the most minuscule of relationships. This propensity to push any potential and meaningful human interactions away doesn’t seem to bother her at all given her successful streak and her extravagant lifestyle that helped make her the “47th wealthiest woman in the world.”

Her much more modest assistant Claire (Kristen Bell) is the faithful workaholic single-mother, antithetical to Darnell’s parochial aspirations and someone who could use a bit of that American Dream that Darnell has used to her advantage. Claire is underpaid and on the brink of seeking employment elsewhere to adequately support her daughter Rachel (Ella Anderson), unless Darnell gives her a long-expected – and much deserved – raise.

Either way, Claire’s career is about to take a different course when Darnell’s nemesis and former sexual partner Renault (Peter Dinklage) enacts revenge on her as payback for double-crossing him in the nineties. Needless to say, it’s not long before Darnell heads off to a fancy prison for a few months for insider trading.

Now, fresh out of prison and losing it all with nowhere to go, Darnell finds herself at the doorstep of Claire’s apartment. A temporary squatting situation soon prolongs itself – much to Claire’s dismay. Through a growing bond between Darnell and Rachel (as her babysitter), Darnell finds an opportunity to fight herself back into the business world by selling Claire’s homemade brownies with a ragtag girl-scouts troop she assembles after a confrontation with one of the uptight moms at Rachel’s troop meeting.

The Boss is exactly what audiences have come to expect from McCarthy’s recent efforts: one whose chameleon-like antics are becoming old and tired with every new movie. Michelle Darnell is little more than a rehash of her mean-spirited and obnoxious characters from past films – a character trait her fans will undoubtedly find amusing – the only difference is that her occupation changes from film to film. There’s nothing really special here – much of the same expected and formulaic structure and jokes that makes for a lengthy experience of displeasure.

This McCarthy-Hollywood recipe is badly in need of an update, leaving one to wonder just how long can this shtick can go on for.

The expected fat jokes are kept mostly at bay, but most of the humor remains excessive. There’s no off switch to many of the jokes, many of which go on longer than they should in an attempt to top itself but fall flat with their repetitiousness. Although the body humor has been more-or-less toned down a bit compared to some of her past films, there still seems to be some ground to overcome especially when the film implicitly pokes fun at Dinklage and McCarthy’s sexual escapades as something comically absurd.

In one instance Mike (Tyler Labine) – Claire’s love interest – is supposed to perform fellatio on a security guard as a distraction as part of Darnell’s elaborate plan to infiltrate Renault’s offices; Darnell’s plan is revealed as it would happen if Mike would agree to such a responsibility. What starts off as an exceedingly funny sequence is squandered by varying repetitions of the punchline. Usually, practice makes perfect but not in this case.

The Boss isn’t entirely terrible, as  there are some genuinely warm moments hidden behind the unfunny and mundane. There’s plenty of heart within the relationship between Darnell and Rachel which at times is touching as Darnell’s icy heart seems to thaw just a bit. Darnell serves as a father figure – or second mother – as she teaches Rachel her way of approaching life in contrast to her push-over and somewhat conservative mom. When Darnell’s intention to legitimately help out Claire comes to fruition her character begins to form and propels her journey towards accepting the family unit as a viable option in her life.

McCarthy does get off a few funny lines that will muster a laugh or two, something that seems to be the case in most of her films. But even these moments serve as reminders she’s actually a very funny and talented actress that seems to have fallen victim to her marketability and willingness to pander to audiences’ expectations. I can’t fathom why her natural charm is buried under ugly characters that are more mean than funny when she’s capable of so much more. The joke of the embittered fat lady has certainly run its course and I hoped that after Paul Feig’s Spy – where she played a strong and likable character – that her roles would improve so as to explore the depth of her talent. Sadly, The Boss isn’t that film.

About the Author: J. Carlos Menjivar