Husband and wife, director and muse comedy duo Ben Falcone and Melissa McCarthy return to the multiplex with their latest laugh-fest THE BOSS. Falcone’s last go behind the camera was 2014’s financially successful, but critically panned TAMMY; however, as Batman and Supes taught as last week, there’s often a disconnect between what audiences enjoy and what critics praise. How much you go into THE BOSS already a fan of McCarthy’s previous work will likely be a barometer of how much you’ll enjoy this film. I, for one, am a big fan.
This time out McCarthy dons a severe red wig and gaudy garments to portray Michelle Darnell, a toxic hybrid of Martha Stewart and Donald Trump on steroids. When’s she’s put in jail for insider trading, Michelle has to beg and grovel her way back to her former titan status. Along the way she enlists former assistant Claire (Kristen Bell, authentically sweet and maternal here by shedding her Veronica Mars snark) and her daughter Rachel (an adorable Ella Anderson) to form an all female startup company of badass brownie makers. The success of this endeavor meets resistance from a schoolmate of Rachel’s, helicopter mom Helen (a hilarious Annie Mumolo) and Darnell’s old flame, Renault (Peter Dinklage).
THE BOSS doesn’t reinvent any wheels, and there’s moments where it seeps into triteness, but let’s face it, the whole endeavor exists for Falcone and McCarthy to show off their comedic chops. On that level, it succeeds. There’s laughs aplenty here. BOSS doesn’t have the depth of BRIDESMAIDS (the film which put McCarthy on the map for most of the world), or the shine of SPY, but McCarthy at this point is capable of elevating any material she touches into something fun and charming. Her Darnell is another great entry into her longstanding character work that started with LA’s famed improv troupe, The Groundlings. McCarthy always commits, and we go along for the ride.
The overall production elements are competent, though not revolutionary. One set-piece pitting Darnell’s girl squad versus Helen’s gets so ridiculously over the top you merely have to accept it; another later in the film involving Renault and samurai swords comes a bit too far out of left field. These faults mostly arise out of the films uneven tone, which alternates between a sweet retelling of a postmodern Scroogette finding her soul (likely the audience drawn to McCarthy’s TV work on MIKE & MOLLY) and the more bawdy, violent side of Darnell that comes out when push comes to shove. I can’t blame the filmmakers for including the latter; no one drops the f-bomb like McCarthy.
If you’re in need of some innocent laughs (and who isn’t), THE BOSS delivers. It may not convert those who enjoy bashing McCarthy, but her and Falcone seem like such a genuinely authentic and deserving couple that I hope Hollywood gives them the chance to keep their “family business” open for more stories, and more atrocious wigs.