When the right director is behind the camera, Melissa McCarthy can be the funniest movie star on the planet. She’s produced comedic gold time after time with Paul Feig, who made Bridesmaids, The Heat, and Spy. If only the same could be said about Ben Falcone. In addition to being McCarthy’s real life husband, Falcone previously directed his wife in Tammy. That film had its moments and McCarthy was of course lovable, but Tammy could also be pretty cliché, uneven, and kind of forgettable. The Boss is another hit-and-miss comedy from McCarthy and Falcone. While McCarthy’s comedic gift does salvage a good portion of the film, the misses are admittedly hard to forgive.
McCarthy owns the screen as Michelle Darnell, a self-man woman who goes from rags to riches. Michelle goes back to rags, however, when she’s arrested for insider trading, sentenced to several months in prison, and loses all of her assets. Since she’s made more enemies than friends, it’ll be a long road back to the top. The only person who takes pity on the former billionaire is her assistant Claire, who’s played by the ever so underrated Kristen Bell. Until she can get back on her feet, Michelle decides to move in with Claire and her young daughter, well played by Ella Anderson.
Upon tasting Claire’s homemade brownies, Michelle decides to enlist an army of Girl Scouts and start a new business empire. The best scenes in the movie involve McCarthy’s interactions with these kids. As you can probably guess, Michelle isn’t the best role model, which of course makes leeway for some great comedy bits. There’s a particularly hilarious schoolgirl street fight that turns into an all-out war. The Boss occasionally demonstrates the potential for a dark comedy on par with Bad Santa or Bad Teacher. The film isn’t without a few major drawbacks, though.
The plot is fairly formulaic and takes few chances. While McCarthy, Bell, and many of the young actresses shine, some of the supporting players are underutilized. Kathy Bates is most notably wasted as Michelle’s mentor. The biggest problem with The Boss, however, occurs in its last half hour. As in numerous other comedies like this, we have to sit through some really forced conflict that splits our characters apart. Seriously, why do filmmakers keep relying on the third-act misunderstanding trope? All it does it slow the story down and we already know what’s going to happen in the end anyway.
As frustrating as the final act can get, The Boss comes close to redeeming itself thanks to an extended cameo from Peter Dinklage. As Michelle’s business rival and ex-lover, Dinklage portrays a villain who’s practically a cartoon character, but still steals every scene he’s in. The climax is a standout with Dinklage and McCarthy engaging in a samurai battle. Granted, some may argue that the climax gets a little too over-the-top and ridiculous. For others, though, it’ll more than compensate for the film’s blander moments. The result is a comedy that’s not without some memorable highlights, but isn’t entirely successful on the whole.