Every established comedian has something about them that makes them distinguishable from the crowd. For some it is the quality of their jokes. Others find their craft in their presence and personality. And for those like Melissa McCarthy, it is all about delivery. Much like a car and a car salesman, jokes need to be sold, and if there is one thing McCarthy does well, it is sell. In The Boss, McCarthy does well to sell as the colorful and brash industry businesswoman Michelle Darnell, but, as in business, one is only as strong as one’s weakest link. With inconsistent or otherwise tactless jokes and a supporting cast poorly versed in the art of comedy, The Boss will leave moviegoers chuckling at times and stoically unimpressed at others.
The Boss follows Darnell (McCarthy), a successful industry titan who has made millions off many investments and crafty entrepreneurial endeavors. Orphaned as a child and fueled by her abandonment, Darnell steers clear of emotional attachment to become a vicious and, at times, heartless competitor. After her arrest for insider trading, Darnell finds herself with liquidated assets and nowhere to go. Turning to her former assistant Claire (Kristen Bell) for help, Michelle soon finds herself at the head of another profitable business venture, Darnell’s Darling Brownies.
Some might say McCarthy has been typecast as this kind of loud, cheeky, heart-of-gold character. While that may be true, she does little to mitigate that stereotype. Her husband and director of The Boss, Ben Falcone, helps her propagate this image, casting her as the same archetypal character in his films. His directorial debut, Tammy (2014) was an abhorrent mess that found McCarthy as distasteful and unfunny as the film itself. The Boss—though not as bad as Tammy—is frustrating in many of the same respects.
As was alluded to earlier, McCarthy does have some moments in the film when her delivery and convictions as the character makes for some genuinely funny encounters. As she insults, berates, and belittles her opponents, the verbal thrashings are worth a smirk or two. In these moments, McCarthy feels sincere in her role. Her comedic timing lines up perfectly with her characters’ succinct vicious stares. Darnell is mean and unforgiving and McCarthy makes her sinister behind unassuming eyes and smiles. That being said, insult humor is relatively low-hanging comedic fruit and it does not always land as intended, but it is better than much of the throwaway humor interlaced through the rest of the movie.
Much of this throwaway humor has no set-up and is immediately foreseeable. One such gag has to do with a pull-out couch, on which Michelle must sleep when staying at Claire’s apartment. Without even thinking, audiences may understand the simple gag that is to come as the scene slows and Darnell begins to lie down. It is of almost no surprise when she is thrown from the bed into the wall. It is a cheap laugh. It is an undeserving laugh. It will probably leave audiences feeling betrayed. In many ways it is a pandering move that really degrades a more finely tuned comedy. It seems rather desperate.
The narrative is most engaging when dealing with Darnell’s antics in regards to the brownie business and reclaiming her fame. Unfortunately, this is interlaced with the dull ongoings of Claire’s life and otherwise unfunny content. As the film tries to shoehorn in heart, it leads some to wonder if it would have felt more cohesive if it embraced the darker demeanor of its protagonist. In a film that is only one hour and 33 minutes, more time should be spent on the eccentric characters who audiences came to see.
The supporting cast, especially Bell and Peter Dinklage, the main antagonist, are not paramount examples of comedy, nor should they be. Their acting chops lie squarely in genres outside of comedy and it shows. Through Dinklage has dabbled in films like Elf (2003), Death at a Funeral (2007) and Pixels (2015), his forte is not in the comedic sphere. They are not unfunny so much as they are not funny.
The Boss highlights what McCarthy has become known for, but is bogged down by unnecessary additions and throwaway gags. In many respects The Boss is cheap, but coming from the likes of Falcone and McCarthy, it could have been worse.
Featured Image By Universal Pictures