Melissa McCarthy proves again she has no current peer as a physical comedienne: She’s the new Lucille Ball, with no pratfall too much in order to get a laugh. And she gets a lot of them, even if shamelessly, in The Boss, which ought to be re-titled Melissa McCarthy’s The Boss since she is virtually the whole show here, bringing the character of Michelle Darnell to the big screen after first creating her in L.A.’s The Groundlings comedy troupe many years ago.
As I say in my video review above, think of Donald Trump meets Leona Helmsley meets Tony Robbins meets Martha Stewart and you have a pretty good idea of who Michelle Darnell is. A wildly successful business titan, self-centered to the point of defining the term, and a popular motivational speaker, Darnell is ranked as the 47th-richest woman in the world — that is until some illegal insider trading lands her in prison and, eventually, penniless when she finally gets out. With this humiliating turn of events she is forced to move in with her assistant Claire (Kristen Bell) and Claire’s daughter Rachel (Ella Anderson).
Although she wants back in on the action she once dominated, she has pissed off so many people — including a former flame of sorts Renault (Peter Dinklage), who now has overtaken her standing as a business tycoon — that she finds herself overwhelming Rachel’s girl scout troop sales with the mind-set and ambition of the corporate superstar she still is in her own mind. This leads to hysterical confrontations with the other mothers of the troop but also to a new company in which she (and Claire) can take right to the top with a killer Brownie recipe. Or in this case over the top, which describes the general level of humor in this enterprise McCarthy has co-written with Steve Mallory and her husband Ben Falcone, who also directs just as he did in their last outing together Tammy.
Compared to that tone-deaf misfire, The Boss is a big improvement and should be cinematic nirvana for McCarthy fans. I laughed a lot, and that’s the idea. She knows exactly how to wring maximum comic mileage out of any bit, even one as simple as giving Claire dressing advice for a date. That scene is a riot as she not so subtly adjusts Claire’s bra for a sexier look; McCarthy and straight person Bell play it for all its worth. Of course being the unfeeling narcissist that she is, the script eventually has to make her human, and McCarthy also knows when to tone it down to make Darnell a bit more real and warm, even if the movie’s big climax dissolves into a ridiculous sword battle between her and Dinklage, who seems to be enjoying this manic respite from Game Of Thrones. Timothy Simons (Veep) makes the perfect stooge and partner for Dinklage, and there is also a welcome, if brief, appearance by Kathy Bates as another business associate Michelle must come crawling back to.
But this is McCarthy’s showcase from first frame to last, and she delivers for her fans on all counts. She is the boss.
McCarthy, Falcone, Will Ferrell, Adam McKay and Rob Cowan produced the film which Universal releases on Friday. Do you plan to see it? Let us know what you think.