Every year I try to re-embrace the American comedy and every year I get dumped a movie like The Boss, which spoils its talented cast with a screenplay that doesn’t even try. From the moment the curtains pulled back and Melissa McCarthy descended upon a pyrotechnically busy stage to start rapping with T-Pain, or whatever his name is, I knew my search for the next successful American comedy would have to wait at least another 99 minutes. Like Rebel Wilson hanging upside down and revealing her goodie bits to the world, no one needs to see Melissa McCarthy attempting black music, least of all dressed like a manicured silkworm.
McCarthy reunites with her husband Ben Falcone, who writes and directs, just as he did on 2014’s Tammy, another supposed comedy that featured a potty-mouthed Susan Sarandon and a funny bone that was just bone. McCarthy here plays Michelle Darnell, an orphan who is rejected from all her foster families in her youth, for reasons never made quite clear, and grows up to be one of America’s wealthiest women. Maybe she’s a spiritual successor to Tammy.
This might sound like a promising premise – outcast rises up the ranks with a no-nonsense attitude and emerges at the very top – but would you still think it if I told you Michelle has a problem trusting people, and that as soon as she gets close to someone she packs her bags and abandons them (providing the obligatory saccharine conflict of the movie) only to return later to set things right? This isn’t a case of cheering for the heroine. It’s a case of not knowing what to cheer for.
The plot is boring and sheepish. It places Michelle in an awkward position by having her arrested for insider trading, released after four months, left without a home or friends to go to. So what does she do? She bunks with her beleaguered assistant Claire (Kristen Bell) until she’s back on her feet (this part of the story involves an asinine scheme to use Dandelion cadets as tools to sell Claire’s amazing brownies – proof that Michelle is a hardwired entrepreneur). Claire’s cute little Dandelion daughter (Ella Anderson) is at that Hollywood age where her eyes and ears are constantly being covered by protective hands to prevent her from hearing all the bad words Miss Darnell has to say, and she says them a lot. I also wouldn’t leave my daughter with a woman who’d gleefully screen The Texas Chainsaw Massacre as if it were Pinocchio.
You see, this is the kind of woman Michelle is. She cares only for herself and actively destroys the lives of the people around her. Why? I’m guessing it has something to do with all those foster families that rejected her for no reason. What goes around comes around.
You could call me humourless or cynical. Perhaps I am. But sit down for The Boss after having enjoyed McCarthy in genuinely funny movies like Bridesmaids (2011) and The Heat (2013) and play back each scene as it happens. Did you laugh? Did you sympathise with Michelle any more? Did you buy into her story and everyone else’s? Did you think the plot was inventive? If you did on all four accounts, I applaud you for enjoying The Boss infinitely more than I did, because I sure as heck am not applauding anything else.