Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Bell, Peter Dinklage, Kristen Schaal, Kathy Bates
Obnoxious lead character: check.
Bland, put-upon sidekick: check.
Terrible script that follows a formula that fails more often than it works: check.
A few physical gags that are actually surprisingly funny: check.
An easily dismissible, idiot villain: check.
I could halt the review there. The Boss fits in with the worst works by Will Farrell, Adam Sandler, Kevin Hart, and their ilk. I think it’s important, though, to discuss why and how these unfunny comedies keep getting made.
First of all, a gifted comic actor – and McCarthy is, much better than the material she wallows in – invents a wisp of a character to riff on. In this case, it’s an arrogant, clueless rich lady who acts like Trump meets Tony Robinson meets Karen Walker from Will and Grace. If the character seems worth improvisation, then the idea moves forward. Let’s not worry that McCarthy’s Boss is neither intriguing nor empathy inducing in any way whatsoever.
McCarthy and her husband Ben Falcone – who co-wrote and directed this – are squarely to blame for this substandard stuff; they co-produce, along with Will Ferrell and director Adam McKay (who’s directed a lot of those Ferrell stinkers). It’s the same problems McCarthy and Falcone ran into in 2014, when they slopped out Tammy.
Then, this ugly character moves into the script phase, which is a very, very short, underworked phase. In this paper-thin plot, the woman was once a repeatedly abandoned orphan who never knew family. So, the loathsome child blossoms into a loathsome adult bent on making millions, ruining partnerships, and being completely repulsive. Of course, she is going to have a come-uppance, a ruination that she has to claw her way out of.
Don’t add any real plot twists or surprises. Don’t write an actual story. This, right here, is the difference between an Adam Sandler comedy – any one of them – and a much better movie, like Bridesmaids. In the latter, the lead character had one thing going for her – her friendship – which was taken away by another woman. The film had a plot and complications and all those funny bits we crave leading up to a culmination, the wedding. They all tie to this theme and character in clever, interesting ways. (In fact, she’s a loser like every one of the other bridesmaids.)
The Boss on cleverness? Nil.
It’s got McCarthy doing her improvisation schtick ad nauseam, but against such a stultifying story and cruddy characters, who cares?
Sure, the audience has a way in: that mushy, forgettable sidekick (Bell). She’s sweet and a little self-hating to stick with McCarthy. She’s also got a daughter she allows this foul creature to influence.
At this point, I get angry. We already know that women have a hard time in business. There’s an interesting angle about females who become superstar CEOs, and how they work with and negotiate with each other and with a field largely populated by men. None of this – none – is actually dealt with in The Boss.
Instead we have a skimpy plot about family, shallow humor, and completely uninteresting and unlikeable characters. The general dreariness actually makes the three moments of slapstick surprising. We also have a weird costume choice, where McCarthy’s clothes seem glued to her jawline and under and around her ears. We cannot fathom if this is supposed to be funny or if it’s a way to cover weight; it’s just a bad, demeaning choice. Subplots get picked up and dropped off like unwanted orphans. The final moments grind down to bare, soul-killing stupidity.
However, here’s the thing: These films can be made for $20 to $50 million, and all they have to do is turn a profit. Tammy – a really messy and lousy film – made four times its budget. Not everyone has to see these flicks for them to survive.
So, you can skip The Boss, someone else will bankroll it, and there’ll still be more of these dumb, underdeveloped comedies with terrible characters and no storylines in our future.