A passable popcorn comedy about a bankrupt businesswoman that’s written and produced by its star, Melissa McCarthy
Since her riotously entertaining breakthrough in Bridesmaids, Melissa McCarthy has made herself one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars with comedy hits like Spy and The Heat. Next month she’ll strap on a proton pack in the female-fronted Ghostbusters reboot, but first comes this passion project based on a character she created in her improvisational comedy days. McCarthy didn’t just co-write and produce The Boss; she also entrusted her husband Ben Falcone to direct it.
She stars as Michelle Darnell, a bolshy billionaire businesswoman who’s sent to prison for insider trading after being betrayed by vindictive ex-husband Renault (Game Of Thrones’ Peter Dinklage). Freed four months later, Darnell finds herself bankrupt, unemployable and so humbled that her only option is to crash with Claire (Veronica Mars’ Kristen Bell), the personal assistant she used to bully. Darnell initially seems defeated, but when she tastes Claire’s homemade chocolate brownies based on a secret family recipe, she spots an opportunity to build another fortune by hiring a troupe of determined schoolgirls to sell them door-to-door.
Although Falcone keeps the pace snappy, The Boss’s plot holes are still glaringly obvious. Darnell’s fledgling brownie business relies on a hefty donation from an estranged former business mentor (Kathy Bates), but their supposedly tense reconciliation is dealt with unconvincingly in a couple of quick half-baked scenes. Dinklage’s character is set up as Darnell’s nemesis early on, but he’s barely present during the film’s middle act, which makes his return for a big sword-fighting finale (yes, really) clunky and less entertaining than it should be.
The Boss still works as a passable popcorn comedy because McCarthy is watchable and the script gives her just enough to work with. She shows her flair for physical comedy in a memorable tussle with a sofa bed and her character’s bluntness leads to some decent deadpan one-liners. When her ex-husband tells her pitifully: “I haven’t been with anyone since I was with you,” Darnell replies glibly: “Really? I’ve been with, like, hundreds of men.” The Boss is no disaster, but given McCarthy’s obvious commitment to this character, it feels like a wasted opportunity.