Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Boss (2016)

Film: The Boss (2016)
Stars: Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Bell, Peter Dinklage, Ella Anderson, Kathy Bates
Director: Ben Falcone
Oscar History: No nominations
Snap Judgment Ranking: 2/5 stars

Melissa McCarthy becoming a movie star has been, in my opinion, one of the best parts of the cinema in the past five years.  McCarthy is a consummate star-incredibly engaging, wildly watchable, the sort of performer that based on sheer charisma alone can hold pretty much any picture.  And yet, I will also point out that, save for four films with Paul Feig, her script choices have all been questionable.  Don't get me wrong here, she's always watchable, even in stuff that's as bad as Tammy, but I haven't loved all of her movie choices.  As this was her second pairing with her husband/director Ben Falcone after Tammy, I was a little nervous, particularly since the trailer reeked of one of those movies that put all of the jokes in a four-minute clip.

(Spoilers Ahead) I will admit to being pleasantly surprised that this movie, though not good, was considerably better than Tammy.  The film is about Michelle Darnell (McCarthy), an obnoxious but wildly successful businesswoman (the parallels to Donald Trump are obvious) who loses all of her money after she goes to prison for insider trading.  She ends up living with her former assistant Claire (Bell) and her daughter Rachel (Anderson), while she attempts to rebuild her empire, this time using Claire's baked good recipes to start a Girl Scout-adjacent brownie empire.  The film follows familiar beats, particularly toward the outlandish ending as she and Claire learn to trust each other and become an atypical family.

The actual plot is pretty easy to map out, and as that's generally true of most comedies, not necessarily the worst thing (though I would have liked to have seen maybe a little more inventiveness with the Claire character, as she doesn't seem to have a defining characteristic other than reflecting other people).  As a result, it's left to the performers, and here we have some help-both McCarthy and Bell are aces when it comes to comedy, and when they are playing off each other, even with easy jokes, it's quite funny.  I genuinely laughed out loud at several of McCarthy's deliveries, and some of the bits from the trailer even worked in context (I always wish trailers wouldn't give away too many of the best jokes, even if that's what gets you to buy the ticket).

The problem is whenever they aren't playing off of each other and their strange power dynamic.  Peter Dinklage, a fine actor otherwise, is terrible as McCarthy's arch-rival, acting like he's the foil in an Adam Sandler movie, and sometimes some of the physical comedy bits feel a bit overdone and ludicrous.  The street fight between competing scout troupes, for example, isn't funny at all even when it's supposed to be, and it fails with the repeated "horny woman" tropes that seem to be a staple for McCarthy since she nailed that so ferociously in Bridesmaids.  The film, as I stated above, is not particularly good because of these scenes, but it's not unwatchable like Tammy ended up being-this is arguably the best of McCarthy's non-Feig comedies (I couldn't stand St. Vincent, though she was the best part about that as well), though unfortunately that's not saying as much as I'd like.  It may be time to play against type (perhaps a more traditional romantic comedy?) to throw off fans who are clearly onboard (the film was still wildly profitable), but want better movies.

Those are my thoughts on The Boss, a not-great movie that I still kind of liked in the moment thanks to McCarthy love.  What about you?  Do you think there's a strong vehicle out there for McCarthy that doesn't include Paul Feig?  If so, what would you like to see from her next?  Share in the comments!

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