This image released by Universal Studios shows Melissa McCarthy, background left, and Kristen Bell in a scene from, "The Boss." (Hopper Stone/Universal Studios via AP)

This image released by Universal Studios shows Melissa McCarthy, background left, and Kristen Bell in a scene from, "The Boss." (Hopper Stone/Universal Studios via AP)

Reeling it in: Paying the cost for seeing ‘The Boss’

“The Boss”

Universal Pictures

1 hour, 39 minutes

 

Melissa McCarthy is a brilliant comedienne, but is rapidly proving herself to be one of those actors who is best when they work with a good director. She’s kind of like John Travolta in that way (and in that way only). He’s a good actor, but he’s in a lot of junk and I can’t say he does anything elevate a movie like “Broken Arrow” or “Swordfish.”

Anyway, when McCarthy works with Paul Feig, as in “Bridesmaids,” “The Heat,” or “Spy,” she’s great. Those movies are great. They’re fun with a fresh take on feminist archetypes. But then you have movies like “Identity Thief” or “Tammy,” which turn this talented actress into a caricature.

Luckily, this week’s movie, “The Boss,” doesn’t suffer from the same “fat girl” jokes that tend to plague McCarthy’s work. Unfortunately, it suffers from a much more common problem — mediocre writing and a third act so ridiculously implausible and hamfisted that I think the last time I saw its ilk was on an episode of “Three’s Company.”

As the titular boss, McCarthy plays Michelle Darnell, a fabulously wealthy financial tycoon who is so powerful that she can bring T-Pain in to sing back up for her on “All I Do is Win.” As her long suffering assistant, Kristin Bell plays Claire, a single mother whose patience only goes so far. When Michelle is arrested for insider trading, all of her assets are seized leaving her homeless. As one of her tenets of business success is to cut people off when they get too close, she finds herself friendless, too, except for, you guessed it, Claire.

What follows is a fairly by the numbers comedy which finds Michelle attempting to rebuild her empire by poaching the market of that last great door to door product, Girl Scout Cookies. Claire makes a mean brownie, and Michelle finds a way to package and sell that chocolatey goodness all the way to the top. If only that had been the entire movie.

Much of the humor in “The Boss” is mediocre — a chuckle here, a chuckle there. There are, however, quite a few moments of comedic brilliance that had me nearly on the floor of the theater, I was laughing so hard. McCarthy, and the screenwriters, employ a sharp witted feminism that works perfectly. Many of these early moments are so funny that they automatically make more ordinary parts of the movie funny just by extension. The movie is rated R for language, so I can’t relay any of the aforementioned jokes here, but suffice it to say that if the film had broken at the 1 hour mark, I think I would have considered this film an enjoyable surprise.

The movie didn’t break, however, I was subjected instead to a pointless caper that ends in literal swordplay with Peter Dinklage who seems to be playing it broader than anyone else in the film. I won’t bother going into the details, but suffice it to say that the ending was so bad that I assumed it must be an elaborate prank or a dream sequence or something. No such luck.

In the end, I can’t recommend “The Boss.” It makes me mad because the funny stuff is good and the rest is inoffensive enough to be able to sit through. But that last act. No. I’m sure you’ll be able to find the funny stuff on YouTube if you look hard enough.

“The Boss,” as well as “Tammy” were both directed and written by McCarthy’s husband, Ben Falcone. Falcone is best known for his small character roles in lots of these kinds of movies, but he’s done lots of writing and worked in different aspects of the movies for a long time. As a director, however, he’s two for two. If he gets strike three, McCarthy may need to think of divorce, if only professionally.

Grade: C-

“The Boss” is rated R for graphic language and some violence.

 

Chris Jenness is a freelance graphic designer, artist and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.

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