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The Boss Reviews

Reviewed By: Ciampoli Tom

Comedy superstar Melissa McCarthy aims her bold, blustery style of humor at the financial gurus of the world, a group that, at this point, might be too outlandish to parody. Instead of fully exploiting this idea, however, McCarthy eventually turns this story of a savvy, foulmouthed mogul into a goofy farce about balancing business with friendship. Michelle Darnell (McCarthy) is a financial whiz who developed her cutthroat techniques while bouncing between foster homes growing up, and is now successful enough to fill stadiums with her seminars on how to make "life-changing money." Unfortunately, her double-crossing ways have made her plenty of enemies, including her ex-lover Renault (formerly known as Robert, and played with unhinged glee by Peter Dinklage), who gets her arrested for insider trading.By the time Michelle is released, her home and all of her valuable assets have been seized, forcing her to take refuge with former employee Claire (Kristen Bell) and the latter's precocious daughter Rachel (Ella Anderson). Languishing in Claire's house with no business prospects, Michelle decides to pour herself into a side venture: getting girls from Rachel's scout group to go door-to-door to sell brownies made by Claire (the kids are offered a commission on their sales). As the unlikely trio grow closer as business partners, Michelle's baggage eventually causes a rift, allowing the vengeance-seeking Renault back into the picture.McCarthy co-wrote the script for The Boss -- along with Steve Mallory and the film's director (and her real-life husband) Ben Falcone -- and she was smart enough not to weigh down this zany showcase for her comedic skills with any satire centering on the morality of Michelle's actions. McCarthy is a powerhouse performer, earning laughs with both whispered threats and open jabs at rivals, and her terrific physical-comedy work here includes both a dance number and a scene in a restaurant where she has a bad reaction to the food. Michelle's seemingly constant consternation is played for our amusement, and McCarthy manages to somehow wring every bit of humor from her line readings without ever seeming like she's mugging or chewing scenery. Kristen Schaal also shines in her scenes as emotionally fragile scout leader/wallflower Sandy.But there isn't much to The Boss beyond just being a showcase for McCarthy. Michelle's type-A personality and consistently ridiculous musings don't leave much for Bell to do, as her character is simply a combination of an unamused straight woman and the requisite "frustrated but responsible adult" -- a setup that doesn't really utilize her comedic talents. Dinklage has a ball as the purely goofy Renault (as does Veep's Timothy Simons as Renault's sycophantic manservant), but the film squanders a potentially glorious role for Kathy Bates, who plays Michelle's brutally honest business mentor Ida Marquette. Bates is one of the few actors who can match McCarthy's comedic personality onscreen (the only other exception here is Dinklage), but it feels like a waste that her story line wasn't developed into the compelling arc it could have been.Likewise, Tyler Labine is given little to do as office drone Mike Beals, who spends most of his time courting Claire and spouting off self-deprecating lines that fall flat. The Boss looks like a killer comedy, and even acts like one at times: The timing and visual gags exhibited in an opening scene of Claire asking for a raise as Michelle gets her teeth whitened (featuring Reno 911! star Cedric Yarbrough as Michelle's body man) lead to some outstanding moments of pure comedy. McCarthy is a proven movie star, and quite possibly the most dependable comedian in Hollywood at the moment. But that doesn't change the fact that the script for The Boss is severely lacking, and regrettably leans on sexual-orientation gags and outlandish non sequiturs for easy laughs as compensation for its paper-thin story. The film serves as an occasionally entertaining lark, but fans looking for a classic McCarthy gut-buster in the vein of Bridesmaids or The Heat won't find it here.