I was thinking…
…no actor has a flawless filmography. Even the most accomplished, talented thespian engages in a project that, for lack of a better word, is total crap. Rarely do their performances remain on a plateau of perfection either. For every peak, there is a valley.
And then there are the slopes of the mountain–the mediocre outings that are neither memorable for their greatness nor for their atrociousness. Melissa McCarthy’s latest film, The Boss, is on that slope.
A self-made Chicago woman, Michelle Darnell (McCarthy—Spy), is at the height of her career. She’s loved by millions, makes millions and doesn’t mind who she screws over to make them. Unfortunately for her, one of those people she screwed over was a former lover, Ronald (Peter Dinklage—Game of Thrones, Pixels), who now goes by the moniker Renault.
Renault discovers Michelle has made a considerable amount of her money through insider trading, a la Martha Stewart, so he orchestrates a takeover of Michelle’s empire. Like Stewart, Michelle is arrested and put away in a minimum security country club. But unlike Stewart, when she gets out, everybody hates her and she is flat broke.
The only person she can turn to is her former executive assistant, Claire (Kristen Bell—Frozen), who resides in Wrigleyville with her young daughter, Rachel (Ella Anderson—Unfinished Business). Claire reluctantly takes Michelle in from off the street and gives her a place to live.
Trying to pull her weight, Michelle takes Rachel to the meetings for her Dandelion troop, a group of girls similar to but legally distinct from the Girl Scouts. Michelle concocts a plan to develop a rival group called Darnell’s Darlings and sets up a business to sell Claire’s amazing brownies for a hefty profit.
It’s not long, however, before Michelle’s old habits of wheeling, dealing and backstabbing take over and she needs to decide whether her empire or her newfound family is more important. I’m sure you can guess which one she eventually chooses.
I generally like Melissa McCarthy’s work. For quite some time, the male chauvinist in me did not really believe women could be all that funny. I am happy to admit McCarthy proved me wrong with some of her earlier roles.
But her schtick is starting to grow tiresome. It feels as if I am seeing her play the same types of jokes if not the same character. She is foul-mouthed and somewhat violent in The Boss, and this comes as no surprise. Her truly heartfelt moments are few and far between, but when they do occur, she admittedly does manage to pull them off with convincing weight.
The trailers for the film committed the injustice of putting in far too many of the film’s attempts at levity, leaving those actual moments in the movie to come off as flat and unimpressive. Nevertheless, there are some genuine laughs, it just takes a while to get to them; the street fight with the competing Dandelion troop is one of them.
It may just be the hopeful father in me, but little Ella Anderson is perhaps the best part of the film. Her youthful innocence and soft-heartedness makes her the most sympathetic character, the one for whom we truly feel emotionally invested–not her mother and not Michelle.
There is also the irksome mix of the unexplained with the painfully evident. The filmmaker inserts so many Chicago landmarks with McCarthy strolling around them, it’s as if he is desperate to prove to us it was filmed in McCarthy’s home state of Illinois and the supposed setting of the film, when in reality it was shot mostly in Georgia.
These unnecessary inserts are stirred in with head-scratching wardrobe choices. Why is Claire wearing a trench coat, trampy make-up and stiletto heels during a break-in? Or why does Michelle don a terrible turtleneck in each and every scene? Who the crap knows.
It is somewhat humorous, however, that Michelle appropriates noted communist symbolism in order to represent her extremely capitalist enterprise. Take that, reds.
There are also several throwaway characters, none of whom make a lasting impression and neither add anything to the overall story nor to our collective long term memories.
The Boss was not as good as I was hoping, but it was everything I was expecting. It is a film on the slopes. The only question is, in which direction will the next McCarthy film be heading? Up toward the peak, or down into the depths?
Ammo Dump rating: 5 out of 10 turtlenecks
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Run time: 99 minutes (1 hour, 39 minutes)