The Boss is the second collaborative film from Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone. Their first, co-authored by the pair, directed by Falcone and starring McCarthy, was Tammy. What an odd surprise Tammy was. Where many would have expected an outright comedy replete with set pieces, Tammy was actually more of a comedic drama with little in the way of wackiness. Tammy was a film that works because of its flawed, underdog characters. It didn’t feel like they quite managed to achieve the balance between the two genres, and the film suffers a bit for that, but it was a movie that showed promise. There was certainly enough in Tammy to inspire interest in The Boss.
The main character in The Boss is Michelle Darnell (played by McCarthy, who co-wrote the script with Falcone and Steve Mallory), a powerful, forthright and fairly unpleasant millionaire tycoon who, after exacerbating and exhausting everyone with her actual best interests at heart, finds herself isolated when she loses everything. Released from prison with nothing, she crashes former assistant Claire’s apartment and sets about rebuilding her fortune in the cut-throat girl scout cookie selling industry.
The Boss features elements of comedy and drama, although leans further towards comedy than Tammy did. With that comes a lighter tone, and it’s thanks to this lighter tone that we can have scenes like the street brawl and sight gags about unreliable sofa beds. Those scenes are dead funny, too. In fact, there are laughs to be found consistently throughout The Boss. It’s a funny film made by some very funny people.
The problem, though, is that very few of the jokes are properly set up. Funny stuff happens and gets said, but there’s a slightness about it because the great majority of the jokes pop up out of nowhere and then disappear. It makes it difficult to build on anything that’s come before and to craft anything that’s particularly memorable. A tidier review than this might suggest that this is likely the result of the three writers coming from a sketch comedy background, but the rest of the film doesn’t really bear that out.
That’s because The Boss works better as a drama. The story and the emotional beats are all set out and paid off to great effect. For a film with a fairly cartoonish lead, and with some silly, over-the-top comedic sequences, it’s surprisingly affecting. McCarthy’s turn as Darnell is as broad as I’ve seen her play, yet the character draws real emotional responses. It’s a sweet film where everyone is placed and established just right, and where you root for the characters. Quite why the jokes weren’t built up in a similar fashion is a bit of mystery.
The film receives a considerable boost from the cast, who are uniformly great. As you might expect McCarthy leads the way. She provides the films biggest laughs and keeps just enough warmth in the obnoxious Darnell to allow the character some pathos.
Kristen Bell is able to flit between serious and funny with an admirable agility, as she’s proven to be adept at doing in the likes of Veronica Mars. Tyler Labine is an unexpected stand out. Labine’s likability and ability to infuse a contained physical comedy into his performance matches up perfectly with his pleasantly pitched love interest role. Why aren’t we seeing Tyler Labine cast in more films? Elsewhere, there are strong supporting performances from the likes of Peter Dinklage, Kristen Schaal (always a welcome addition) and Kathy Bates.
The Boss finds McCarthy and Falcone once again negotiating a ground between comedy and drama, and again not quite getting it right. That’s not to say that there isn’t a good deal to enjoy here. The Boss is a perfectly pleasant afternoon at the pictures. But, while seemingly possessing all the elements needed to make something really good, they’ve ended up producing a film that fails to stand out or stick in the memory for long after you’ve left the auditorium.
The Boss is in UK cinemas from June 10th.
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