I don’t know Paul Feig’s secret but he holds the key to Melissa McCarthy’s success as her second big screen attempt (after Tammy) with husband Ben Falcone directing and co-writing is a disappointing blunder with a misguided plot and mean spirited tone. The Boss never finds its footing with scenes ending abruptly and without a laugh. For a film that should be about a business savvy woman down on her luck who rallies together a girl scout as a way to regain her success, the movie spends little time with the actual troop. Besides getting derailed with physical gags of McCarthy’s Michelle Darnell falling or being thrown against a wall, the film jumps between scenes with Claire (Kristen Bell), which the film can’t decide if she’s an A plot or a B plot, and the villain Renault (Peter Dinklage) who takes up most of the finale even though he only drifts in and out of the film never feels like a real presence. The Boss veers away from being Troop Beverly Hills and tries to be a white collar crime Adam McKay feature and sadly bombs in the process.
The Boss has an amazing start. The opening sequence setting up Michelle’s backstory of how she got her emotional distance issues and strive to succeed is cute in the way that it’s exposition but the real excitement comes with seeing her on top of the world, rapping with T Pain at a sold out arena. We go from this high energy music video to Michelle’s luxury office afterwards where she has this brilliant back and forth with her bodyguard Tito (Cedric Yarbrough). This is the most fun the film has and the only instance of good camera work. It’s all downhill after the movie gets rid of dance sequences and Tito and now every angle is reduced to straight on single shots (probably to allow the maximum amount of improv) and TV show esque establishing shots of Claire’s apartment. Most of the humor in the film is so negative. The comedy of “who’s on my baseball” is great because it’s a dumb, innocent bit. Later it’s scenes of Michelle telling an uptight mother that she should go “fuck herself” over and over again. Michelle is supposed to be a flawed character but R Rated comedies seem to have this issue when they’re given the freedom to be “edgy” they become a harsh roasting of characters. I like the over the top fight scene between the Dandelions and Michelle’s Darnell Darlings because it’s fantastical and stylized for the hell of it but harassing eleven year olds for their looks is plain uncomfortable.
I maybe could have been more accepting of this if these tween scouts were actual characters but aside from Claire’s daughter Rachel (Ella Anderson) who is extremely bland and a tall, menacing blonde named Crystal (Eva Peterson) we don’t know any of the girls from either faction. I expected a recruiting montage as Michelle weeds out the best of the best to join her Darlings but it all happens over night. These girls are a plot device and in the scheme of the movie are a distraction from core rivalry between Michelle and her ex-lover/business associate Renault. Maybe if the marketing hadn’t leaned in so heavy on the girl scout aspect, I wouldn’t have honed in on that as the central focus because in retrospect that’s only the middle of the film. The first third is Michelle’s rise and fall due to insider trading and the last third is her trying to steal back the contract she signed to Renault giving up control to her company. Pairing all that with a side plot of Claire’s job working for an underused Cecily Strong and dating cubical companion Mike (Tyler Labine), there’s so many movies happening at once.
At least I can say this is better than Tammy, because I did find actual jokes to laugh at but as the movie spirals out of control things became less and less enjoyable as it became so senseless. This could have been a sweet yet vulgar comedy like Neighbors but it’s bogged down with plot as well as moments that go nowhere. There’s a whole scene with Kathy Bates as Michelle’s former mentor where she goes and asked for forgiveness as well as investment in her brownie troop. That scene is frankly pointless, isn’t funny and I can only guess is to expanded on Michelle’s character but it’s so unnecessary if Bates is only going to be around for 5 minutes. She’s not even affected by the whole Renault buying the company in the end. I wanted to like The Boss because I love Melissa McCarthy. She is such a presence on screen and has moments of comedic genius but this is no Spy. While I’d love to see her being a no-nonsense, intelligent titan of industry like she is here, there needs to be better writing and filmmaking to support her.