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Boss, The
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Trust Me, They Are Not Saying “Bruuuuuuuuuuuuce!”"
1 stars

The good news about “The Boss,” the latest production from Melissa McCarthy and husband Ben Falcone (she stars, he directs and they co-wrote the screenplay), is that it is marginally better than their previous collaboration, the terminally awful “Tammy.” The bad news is that this is largely due to it having been filmed partly in Chicago, which means that one can at least bask in the sights of the greatest city on Earth when the on-screen action is of no particular interest, which is a frequent occurrence. Other than that, this is another tiresome bore that goes to extraordinary lengths to try to inspire laughs to generally little avail and which demonstrates an almost painful inability to recognize McCarthy’s real strengths as a comedienne. You know how some comedies will fill the end credits with bloopers that are oftentimes not quite as funny as the people in front of the camera seem to think they are? This film is like a 90-minute-long collection of such bits that have been jammed together almost seemingly at random and presented as something resembling a feature.

McCarthy plays Michelle Darnell, a hard-driving business mogul who has risen from her inauspicious beginnings to her position as the 47th richest woman in America. Don’t ask how she did this—the movie certainly doesn’t—but it appears that the key to her success was to undercut her competition, belittle her employees, especially long-suffering assistant Claire (Kristen Bell) and generally being as mean, shrill and foul-mouthed as humanly possible. Everything comes crashing down one day when she is arrested for insider trading and sentenced to five months in prison. During her incarceration, her business goes down the tubes and all of her assets seized and when she is eventually released, she has absolutely nothing to her name and nowhere to go. Naturally, this leads her to Claire’s doorstop and she convinces her former doormat to let her stay with her and her young daughter, Rachel (Ella Anderson), in an already-cramped apartment whose central piece of decor is a sofa bed that acts in wacky ways that are unlike any home furnishing that you or I have ever encountered.

When Michelle takes Rachel to her Dandelions meeting—an outfit for young girls that is absolutely nothing like Girl Scouts, so don’t even think about them—and learns about the millions the group makes every year in cookie sales (again, nothing like the Girl Scouts), her mind starts racing with ideas and when, in an imitation of “Imitation of Life,” she discovers that Claire makes an absolutely killer brownie, she devises a plan to form Darnell’s Darlings, an ersatz group of girls who will make and sell the brownies as a way of learning how to develop and run a business and even get a cut of the profits for their efforts—while making Michelle and reluctant partner Claire rich if it takes off. This leads to conflicts between Michelle and an overbearing Dandelion mother (Annie Mumolo), whose antagonism towards her leads to a street brawl between the Dandelions and the Darlings, long-standing professional rival and occasional paramour Renault (Peter Dinklage), whose antagonism leads to a sword fight between the two on the roof of a skyscraper and her own insecurities, whose antagonism lead her to perform an inexplicable act that will come just in time to present something resembling dramatic conflict to help drive the final act.

The problem with “The Boss” is not so much that it is a desperately unfunny comedy—though it most certainly is that—as it is a lazy and unfocused one. It takes the roughly the same approach to humor that Enron did to accounting—it comes up with a number of ideas but seems to think that it deserves all the laughs just for that and not for developing them into sequences that are actually funny. There are any number of big scenes that are presumably meant to be hilarious—a motivational speech at the United Center that turns into a fully choreographed musical number complete with a cameo from T-Pain, a bit where Michelle, her mouth grossly distended from a teeth whitening treatment, incorrectly quotes the “Who’s on First?” routine with one of her yes-men and the aforementioned street brawl and sword fight—but McCarthy, Falcone and co-writer Steve Mallory neglect to include anything amusing to the mix and the result is a lot of scenes that just drift along aimlessly until the scene mercifully comes to an end. Most of the jokes on display revolve around Michelle either saying something incredibly crude and vulgar or falling down and going boom—essentially the same thing she has done in the vast majority of her other films with the only difference being that she is playing someone in a higher tax bracket—and none are particularly amusing. Adding even less to the proceedings is the film’s determination to follow in the footsteps of Judd Apatow by clearly allowing the actors to ad-li to their hearts content, even though the inspiration is clearly not there. Needless to say, none of them work—the only time the film comes close to inspiring laughter comes during the more serious-minded scenes where we are actually asked to care about Michelle and her damaged past in scenes that are ham-fisted beyond belief.

What is exceptionally baffling about “The Boss” is that it seems to fundamentally misunderstand what it is about McCarthy and her unique comedic persona. When she is at her funniest, as in “Bridesmaids” and “Spy,”it is because she is playing characters who are brash and outrageous but at the same time still fundamentally likable at heart—the kind that people laugh with instead of at and who they find themselves ultimately rooting for. In “The Boss”—not to mention most of the other generally useless films that she has made since her “Bridesmaids” breakthrough—she plays characters who are so irredeemably loud and obnoxious in the first two-thirds of the film that it is virtually impossible to like or care for her in any way, especially during the last third where viewers are asked to look at her with genuine sympathy instead of the revulsion that she has earned. If they had come up with a sound foundation for this particular comedic approach, that would be one thing but what they offer up here is lazy hackwork that not only waste McCarthy’s talents but those of co-stars Bell and Dinklage, who, between this and “Pixels,” really needs to more carefully plot out his choices of projects in between seasons of “Game of Thrones.”

“The Boss” is especially dispiriting because it is a bummer to see Melissa McCarthy, one of the most consistently popular comedic box office draws of the moment, squandering her not-inconsiderable commercial clout on the kind of project so flimsily conceived and executed that feels more like one of those slipshod filmed deals that Adam Sandler is currently cranking out for Netflix. It is the kind of movie that misses the mark so completely and consistently that all you can do while sitting there watching it is mentally rewriting it as it goes along. (Why not ditch the Dandelion angle—which really does not work—and make it about a tycoon who goes to prison and utilizes her business acumen to navigate her way through the jail experience? Not only does that sound more promising, it would provide a more natural background for the crude comedy to follow.) After the legitimate step forward that was “Spy,” easily her cinematic highpoint to date, this is at last two or three steps back—accompanied by a fall down a random flight of stairs, of course—and the fact that she is responsible for a good portion of its content only serves to make it all the more depressing in ways that not even the best brownie in the world can help alleviate.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=28375&reviewer=389
originally posted: 04/08/16 02:12:40
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User Comments

4/17/16 Christopher Macias Nice Review Highly Recommended 5 stars
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  08-Apr-2016 (R)


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