The Boss stars Melissa McCarthy as Michelle Darnell – the 47th wealthiest woman in America. When she’s found guilty of insider trading, her empire crumbles – and is swept up by her business rival (and ex-boyfriend), Renault.
On her release, she’s forced to live with regular folks – her former assistant, Claire and her daughter Rachel – but she happens upon some of Claire’s brownies and looks to them to be the foundation of her comeback.
The Boss has a couple of things going for it: when it’s funny, it’s really funny, and it’s only 100 minutes long (another plus is some very funny outtakes over the closing credits.
The first few moments of The Boss establish that the orphaned Michelle was in and out of foster homes like a yoyo, returning to the Catholic same orphanage – much to the disappointment of Sister Aluminata (Margo Martindale), As a result, she determines to make it on her own.
Cut to the adult Michelle holding a seminar in a hockey arena to screaming fans (entering on the back of a golden phoenix). Following the seminar, her assistant, Claire (Kristen Bell), hits her up for a raise while her own personal Greek chorus, Tito (Cedric Yarborough), sings her praises.
When she admits to Renault (Peter Dinklage) that a recent windfall came from an insider tip, he rats her out and she goes to prison (white collar prison, but for her it’s torment).
When she gets out, she winds up staying with Claire and Rachel (Ella Anderson) because she has no place else to go – all her high-powered friends won’t have anything to do with her. While she’s there, she discovers Rachel is part of a Girl Scouts-like troop and finds fault with their business practices when she decides to cash in on Claire’s excellent brownies.
She forms a troop of her own, Darnell’s Darlings, and offers anyone who wants to join a percentage of the take when they make a sale. This leads to a nasty confrontation between the Darlings and Rachel’s former troop that, essentially, parodies every brawl ever committed to film.
As the brownies take off, Michelle makes one stunning business decision – without consulting Claire – that leads to what should be a heartbreaking development but comes off as maudlin/mawkish.
McCarthy manages to be a riot when the material rises to its highs (most of the Bell/McCarty and McCarthy-Dinklage stuff), but falls short in the maudlin bits.
Bell is a very good straight person to McCarthy and has a nice chemistry with Tyler Labine, who plays Mike, an office drone she works with before striking out on her own.
Anderson is just perky enough to signal her character’s intelligence and just awkward enough to keep her from being precocious.
Dinklage is so good as Renault that one has to wonder why he doesn’t do more comedy. He evens makes his lesser material work.
Special mention should be made of Eva Anderson as Chrystal, a veritable giant among the girls of Darnell’s Darlings. She has terrific timing, great presence and a gift for underplaying.
Directed by Ben Falcone – McCarthy’s husband and, with her, co-writer of the script – The boss kind of lurches from set up to set up, though each individual sequence plays reasonably well (even those that don’t work as comedy), they don’t cohere as well as they should.
If you love Melissa McCarthy, you’ll probably love The Boss. If not, there’s probably not enough to it to keep you interested.
Final Grade: B-