The Boss gets to a hilarious point, and then avoids it the rest of the way.
Melissa McCarthy has been a central figure in the female-led comedic renaissance in modern cinema. 2011’s Bridesmaids kicked off a constant flow of adult comedies featuring female leads, and the results have been great. That isn’t to say that female-led comedies were never produced before, but they were few and far between — about one to every ten male-led adult comedies (a guesstimate). The Boss is the latest entry in the new wave of such films, and while it’s not nearly as funny as others, it gleefully crosses the politically incorrect line on a few occasions while criticizing some of our society’s most antiquated views of women of all ages. And when it does, unfortunately not often enough, it’s hysterical!
McCarthy plays Michelle Darnell, the “47th richest woman in America” — a financial guru with an empire at her feet. When caught for insider trading, she’s sent to prison and the aforementioned empire is whisked away. Upon leaving prison, she has nowhere to go and no one to turn to except for her former assistant, Claire (Kristen Bell), a single mom… honestly, that’s really the only way to describe Bell’s one-note bland character since she points it out at every opportunity. Oh, right, she also bakes great brownies! Anyway, the movie is mainly centered around Darnell trying to regain her popularity and social status, and she learns some valuable lessons along the way. Meanwhile, there’s Peter Dinklage playing Renault, Darnell’s former colleague and lover who now owns a massive vague corporate empire of his own and wants to buy/steal/nab all of Darnell’s success away from her. And there’s also a lovable goof at Claire’s work that has a crush on her, but he really has no impact on anything in the film, really.
The funny moments come in the form of Darnell inserting herself into Claire’s daughter’s life, specifically by taking control of a “girl scouts” type local chapter. There’s one brilliant moment in which Darnell chastises how girl scouts prepare/train girls for traditional gender-ordained roles in life. This scene is crude, hysterical, and witty, and there are a small handful of these moments scattered throughout the film. I wish The Boss had sustained this focus, because it comes off as a potential gold mine for truly hilarious satirizing. Sadly, the remaining minutes are only somewhat entertaining and they’re tonally disjointed and even a bit looney — not in a good way. For an R-rated comedy, there sure are a lot of PG-13 jokes and silly disconnected action slapstick. The R-rating is primarily for crude humor and a whole lot of F-bombs, which is hilarious in one or two moments but otherwise lacks creativity. It’s apparent that writer/director Ben Falcone, who is married to McCarthy, was too distracted by one-off gags and McCarthy’s zaniness to maintain focus. When Darnell’s first interaction with the girl scouts troop was happening, I thought ‘okay, here we go!’ But, The Boss quickly sidetracked itself and never came close to its highest point again.
The Boss opens in theaters Friday, April 8th.