Re­view: Melissa McCarthy stuck in mi­nor-league movie ‘The Boss’

Sun.Star Cebu Weekend - - Contents - By Jake Coyle

THE search con­tin­ues for a suitable show­case for the awe­some tal­ents of Melissa McCarthy out­side of films di­rected by Paul Feig.

The lat­est ve­hi­cle to give it a try, “The Boss,” has a promis­ing enough blue­print for com­edy. McCarthy plays the red-haired, thor­oughly turtle­necked Michelle Dar­nell, a ruth­less, self-made ex­ec­u­tive whose Martha Ste­wart-like de­scent lands her in white-col­lar prison. Pen­ni­less upon re­lease, she moves in with her for­mer and much mis­treated as­sis­tant Claire (Kris­ten Bell) and her daugh­ter Rachel (Ella An­der­son).

But, as in McCarthy’s slip­shod road movies “Iden­tity Thief” and “Tammy,” the ma­te­rial here isn’t on her level, the laughs are largely cheap and once again, the hall-of-fame comic ac­tress is stuck in a mi­nor­league movie. Like “Tammy,” ‘’The Boss” was di­rected by Ben Fal­cone, McCarthy’s hus­band and long­time col­labo-

ra­tor, and writ­ten by them both. (Steve Mal­lory, who also dates back to their improv days at the Up­right Citizens Bri­gade, also pitches in on the screen­play).

In both films, the premise is solidly rooted in the com­mon frus­tra­tions of thought­less bosses and dead-end jobs. Tammy’s midlife cri­sis was par­tially prompted by a melt­down with her fast-food man­ager (played by Fal­cone), but in “The Boss,” Bell’s Claire is the one suf­fer­ing un­der tyrants.

Michelle is in­tro­duced as the 47th wealth­i­est woman in Amer­ica, a perch she flaunts as a fi­nance guru. At an arena rally, she de­scends to the stage on a bird with dol­lar bills show­er­ing her. She’s Suze Or­man times a hundred.

Her down­fall is plot­ted by a busi­ness ri­val, Re­nault (Peter Din­klage), who gets her locked up for in­sider trad­ing. Claire, a sin­gle mother, finds an­other job with yet an­other un­car­ing su­per­vi­sor (the un­der­used Cecily Strong). But Michelle turns up on Claire’s Chicago doorstep, look­ing for a place to stay.

The first sign of trou­ble in “The Boss” isn’t the lack of a Bruce Spring­steen cameo, but Michelle’s first night on Claire’s couch bed. When she sits down, the bed vi­o­lently flings her high up on the wall, a crudely bru­tal, dig­i­tally faked mo­ment of poorly cal­i­brated slap­stick that seems to ex­ist only for the movie’s trailer.

Other such bits crop up, like a tum­ble down stone steps by Michelle, that feel like des­per­ate reaches for laughs. Af­ter at­tend­ing Rachel’s Girl Scouts meet­ing, Michelle hits on an idea for a home­made brownie op­er­a­tion that will teach young women more cap­i­tal­is­tic ideals and give them a per­cent of the prof­its, too.

By even the stan­dards of re­demp­tive oc­cu­pa­tions in come­dies, it’s a thin con­cept. But Michelle’s ri­val troupe of treat-sell­ing girls be­gins to take off, bring­ing back all of Michelle’s hard-nosed busi­ness tac­tics. A street fight be­tween the girls fol­lows, as does the ex­pected les­son about fam­ily and gen­eros­ity.

“The Boss” is tighter than “Tammy” and it’s not with­out laughs. With few sup­port­ing play­ers pro­vid­ing much hu­mor (Kathy Bates, as Michelle’s men­tor, is en­tirely squan­dered), McCarthy shoul­ders the film. And she re­mains a cap­ti­vat­ing, un­pre­dictable force in even a medi­ocre film, with a rare gift for both bom­bas­tic and hum­ble char­ac­ters, sweet­ness and crass­ness, phys­i­cal com­edy and ver­bal spats.

But so far, those gifts have only been fully put to use by Feig. Their films to­gether — “Brides­maids,” ‘’The Heat” and “Spy” — are a class above the rest. Thank­fully, their next one, “Ghost­busters,” is due this sum­mer. Two stars out of four.

(AP PHOTO)

Melissa McCarthy (left) and Kris­ten Bell in a scene from, “The Boss.”

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