THE BOSS: Time for a Performance Evaluation

by Elizabeth Stoddard

Melissa McCarthy’s abrasive lead character in The Boss, named Michelle Darnell, falls from grace and attempts to regain her place in the world of business. She talks her harried assistant Claire (Kristen Bell) into taking her in and is inspired by the scouting troop Claire’s daughter attends to start a new venture.

There’s no new catchy “Cookie Time” song for this generation, but the antagonism between Darnell’s start-up girl crew and the original scout group is comparable to that in the Shelley Long cult comedy Troop Beverly Hills. We’re supposed to believe that McCarthy’s character learns something from her time with Claire and her daughter — the emphasis on making a family for oneself reminded me of Lilo and Stitch — but the film can’t pull this off adequately. The limitations of the screenplay, and the character as played by McCarthy, just don’t allow it.

The Boss does assemble a strong cast, from Character Actress Margo Martindale as a nun to an effete Peter Dinklage as Darnell’s adversary/erstwhile lover to Kathy Bates as Darnell’s past mentor. Playing a single mother often exasperated by Darnell’s antics, Bell serves as McCarthy’s straight-woman. Although they make a nice comedic duo, one wonders how Claire — underpaid and underappreciated during her time as assistant — could be suckered into hosting her former boss in her Chicago apartment for any period of time.

This preposterous notion is among many others that contribute to the utter ridiculousness of actor/director Ben Falcone’s film. Not that the ridiculous is unwelcome in any comedy, but it certainly overwhelms this one. The orange wig on top of the Suze Orman-inspired style of Darnell’s look is often distracting (seriously, so. many. turtlenecks.). A scene of bra banter between McCarthy and Bell is hilarious, yet ends up dragging on far too long. They could have cut something and left it for the gag reel (which rolls in the end credits). But it illustrates the lengths to which The Boss will go in want of laughs, when taking a step back might have led to a tighter film.

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