In looking at the title of The Boss and Melissa McCarthy’s headlining name, the first thought that comes to mind is that this is a comedy. And with last year’s very successful and very funny Spy, McCarthy was on a roll. What could go wrong, right? Well, the last time McCarthy teamed up with husband Ben Falcone, we got Tammy, a horrific train wreck that couldn’t be saved. Unfortunately, the same can be said about The Boss, a film that flounders in its inability to understand what it wants to be.
Michelle Darnell (McCarthy) is an orphan no one took in as a child, so she’s always felt unloved and unwanted. While Michelle’s rocky beginning caused her to push people away, she succeeds as an entrepreneur. Her book, The Power of One, is a bestseller and, thanks to her business, she’s the “47th richest woman in America.” However, Claire (Kristen Bell), a hardworking single mother and personal assistant to Michelle, is shortchanged. Being on the receiving end of Michelle’s mean disposition and behavior is not a joyride.
Once on top of the world, Michelle finds herself in jail after an old flame and coworker, Renault (Peter Dinklage), gives her up for insider trading and all her assets are claimed and liquidated. Starting from scratch, Michelle finds she has no place to stay except with loyal and pitying Claire and her daughter, Rachel (Ella Anderson). Michelle gets into business with Claire making brownies and tries to rebuild herself from the bottom up, gaining a new family along the way.
The Boss is by no means as much of a mess as Tammy, but the film doesn’t tap into McCarthy’s comedic strengths. Tacked onto the already weak plot are several side ones that are completely unnecessary: Bell’s romance with Tyler Labine; McCarthy’s strange and unfocused relationship with mentor Kathy Bates; Dinklage’s terrible attempt to be a bad guy; and, the verbal fights with uptight scout mother Annie Mumolo.
These confusing story lines make clear that the film has no idea where it wants to go. Is it about being a mean boss? Is it about Michelle’s lonely and unloved past? Is it about something else entirely? The Boss starts one way and then veers off into various directions, quickly disintegrating in its third act. McCarthy’s Michelle is the center of the film, but without great supporting characters to bolster her journey, the film spirals into a chaotic and incoherent mess.
McCarthy makes a couple of fun quips, but the rest of the film’s comedy only rarely hits the mark; and the remainder of the cast doesn’t quite know how to keep up with her energy. Paul Feig seems most talented at bringing out the best in McCarthy, as seen in comedies like Bridesmaids and Spy, but Falcone and McCarthy together have yet to balance entertainment with a good story. The Boss is a disappointing comedy that struggles to keep its story afloat.
The Boss opens nationwide April 8, 2016.