What makes me hesitant to recommend this movie isn’t the premise. It’s entirely the writing.
Since her memorable role in 2011’s Bridesmaids, Melissa McCarthy has graced at least one movie poster a year—two in 2013 (Identity Thief and The Heat), two more in 2014 (Tammy and St. Vincent), and will be on at least a couple more by the end of 2016 (The Boss and Ghostbusters). She’s a movie-making machine who has shown no sign of slowing down. Despite the fact that many of her recent films have been mediocre and somewhat predictable, viewers still show up to see what she rolls out. But as I watched The Boss, I couldn’t help but wonder what exactly brings people back?
In my mind, McCarthy will always be Sookie St. James, the klutzy and bubbly sidekick of Lorelai on Gilmore Girls. (If you’ve been keeping up with the Gilmore Girls Netflix revival news, you know McCarthy has just announced she’ll be joining the project.) Her 122-episode stint as Sookie currently remains my favorite entry in McCarthy’s body of work because it’s proof that she is more than capable of gaining recognition in a comedic role without relying on the slightest bit of vulgarity. This is the McCarthy I miss, and she wasn’t anywhere to be found in her newest release, The Boss.
Michelle Darnell (McCarthy) is a titan of industry who ruthlessly made it to the top more or less on her own. As one of the 50 wealthiest women in America, she stands by her childhood mantra that “family is for suckers.” Despite her obvious skill for business, a misstep lands her in prison for insider trading. Upon her release, she learns that everything formerly in her position has been seized with the exception of a couple duffle bags and some office supplies, and the only person she can think to turn to for help—and perhaps a bit of pity—is her former assistant Claire (Kristen Bell) who had by that point already found a new job to support her daughter Rachel (Ella Anderson). Darnell doesn’t really get up from the single mother’s couch until forcefully told to take Rachel to a troop meeting. It’s there that the troop’s cookie sales inspire her next business venture—Darnell’s Darlings, a brownie empire catapulted by Claire’s family brownie recipe.
The cast is easily the best element of this film. Peter Dinklage is hilarious as Darnell’s eccentric foe Renault (I couldn’t help but wonder if he drew a bit of inspiration from Zoolander), Kristen Schaal could not have been more perfect for the role of shy and sensitive Scout Leader Sandy, and 11-year-old Anderson gave just as great a performance as her experienced adult co-stars.
McCarthy wows in this role just as she does her others, and she has a likeability factor that has and will continue to fill seats. Her acting is never the issue. The Boss is full of scenes that I imagine were an absolute blast to film. Plus, she not only got to work alongside her hubby, Ben Falcone, who directed, but her two young daughters as well. (They scored cameos after reportedly begging Mom and Dad to let them join the fun.) What makes me hesitant to recommend this movie isn’t the premise. It’s entirely the writing.
When McCarthy, Falcone, and Steve Mallory wrote the script for this project, they clearly weren’t out to create a family film (although they very well could have), and that’s fine. The dialogue is often witty, but just as often it’s irritatingly tasteless. When McCarthy drops an F-bomb within the first few minutes of the movie, I sighed and settled in for an hour and a half of crude language—99 percent of which comes out of McCarthy. I’m not offended by a curse word, or two, or ten, but the frequency at which they’re incorporated here is tiresome and comes off as a crutch for cheap laughs. Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Rebel Wilson, and Amy Schumer all have a habit of doing this, and I’m not sure I’ll ever understand why. I assume they find it funny, but it just leaves me begging the question—why can’t these highly-praised queens of comedy showcase their sense of humor using nothing but clean, innuendo-free language? Perhaps they’re not as naturally gifted as I’d like to believe. | Megan Washausen