Thursday, April 7, 2016
Review: "The Boss"
Now that she's a bona fide major star who puts together her own vehicle pictures, it's heartening to see Melissa McCarthy stepping out of her box. We'd seen her do a lot of the same thing in "The Heat" and "Tammy" and other flicks, playing the rough, socially unskilled, blue-collar woman who does outrageously offensive things seemingly without any concept of how it affects others.
McCarthy has mostly carried these roles off, based on a sassy screen presence and deft comic timing. But we could feel the staleness starting to creep in.
She's playing an actual fresh character in "The Boss," the second collaboration with real-life husband Ben Falcone, who also directed. (Steve Mallory shares a screenwriting credit with the pair.) She plays Michelle Darnell, an uber-rich mogul brought low by her own arrogance, who has to start all over by crashing at the apartment of her harried ex-assistant, played by Kristen Bell.
Think Donald Trump mixed with Suze Orman, plus a smidge of Ann Coulter (the nastiness, not the politics).
I love the physical get-up McCarthy has to play Michelle. She has this impervious bob of reddish hair that drapes her head like a stubborn waterfall. She always wears extravagant outfits and jewelry, even while sleeping. And she's got that lacquered makeup seen on cable newscasters you suspect was put on with industrial paint applicators and could withstand anything short of a category 4 hurricane.
Michelle also wears roll-up collars that come right up to her cheeks. You suspect she started doing that because of a troublesome double chin, and now goes through life in perpetual Kilroy mode, looking like she's peeking over a wall at you.
The story's a bit thin, but McCarthy and Bell have decent chemistry and the jokes' funny-to-flop ratio is pretty high. It's a foul-mouthed, harmless good time.
Bell plays Claire, the straight woman in this duo. She's a hardworking single mom, devoted, a little on the dull side. Claire has spent most of her professional life catering to Michelle's every whim, from running her companies to spraying her teeth with whitener in between raucous stadium shows where she promises to make everyone rich.
Of course, the only one who ever gets rich in these deals is the person who already is.
After spending four months in prison for insider trading -- think Martha Stewart -- Michelle shows up at Claire's doorstep because her assets were seized and she's alienated everyone else she ever encountered. Some predictable bonding occurs, with Ella Anderson offering a winning, grounded presence as Claire's kid, Rachel.
When Michelle discovers how much loot Rachel's Dandelions troop makes selling cookies, she hatches on a scheme to start a competing outfit she dubs Darnell's Darlings. Using Claire's kick-butt brownie recipe, and by recruiting all the tough girls in school to act as muscle, they soon put the ersatz Girl Scouts on the ropes. This leads to an "Anchorman" style beatdown between adorable girls.
Yes, it's derivative; but yes, it still works.
Peter Dinklage turns up as the kooky villain, a former beau of Michelle's that she double-crossed long ago. Tyler Labine is agreeable as Claire's coworker and huggable bear of a love interest. Kathy Bates has a too-small role as Michelle's backstabbed mentor.
"The Boss" is moderately filthy, decently funny and features Melissa McCarthy stretching her wings a bit. It's enough to tide us over until the "Ghostbusters" reboot.