You’re either a Melissa McCarthy fan or you’re not. There aren’t many people in the middle ground.

I’ve been a fan since her star-making performance in Bridesmaids. Let’s not forget that performance was nominated for the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, and if you haven’t seen it in a while, it’s worth watching again.

The biggest criticism you can make of Melissa McCarthy is that we’ve basically been 3 starsgetting the same performance from her in all her subsequent movies. But there are two problems with that. First, even if that’s true, so what? We’ve basically been getting the same performance from Will Ferrell since Old School, and like Melissa McCarthy, I’ll pay to see that every time.

But second, McCarthy regularly brings something to her characters that makes you care about them. It’s not just broad slapstick (though she does that very well). It’s also the same kind of sympathy you have for Charlie Chaplin’s little tramp, or the lovesick Buster Keaton sitting on the train wheel before it takes off.

It’s another trait she shares with Will Ferrell. When there is a certain vulnerability at the core of the character’s motivation, we connect with the characters more easily and the slapstick is funnier. Bankable box office stars like Adam Sandler and Kevin Hart achieve this only occasionally, but Melissa McCarthy seems to naturally bring this quality to every role.

In The Boss, McCarthy plays Michelle Darnell, a character who grew up in an orphanage to become the wealthy head of a self-help empire who then gets convicted of insider trading and is sent to jail. When she gets out, she tries to rebuild her shattered brand but gets the cold shoulder from many of the people she had wronged on her way to the top. It’s a rags-to-riches-to-rags-to-riches story.

Kristen Bell plays her assistant Claire, a single mom who opens up her home and welcomes Michelle. Ella Anderson plays Claire’s daughter Rachel, and Michelle quickly convinces mom and daughter to join her in starting up a Girl Scouts-like group that will make a fortune selling Claire’s homemade brownies.

Not enough is done with this premise. The focus remains on Michelle, and there isn’t enough commentary on these kind of children’s groups, fanatical parents, bake sales, etc. But in fairness, maybe that’s a different movie. We do get a street fight between the two groups of little girls and parents, which is pretty funny, but borrows heavily from the ridiculous fight scene in Anchorman.

Peter Dinklage makes an appearance as Michelle’s old flame and business rival Reneault. There are some plot holes and logical leaps that bring the central conflict to a resolution but by the time you get to that point in the movie, you won’t care. It’s a vehicle for Melissa McCarthy to make you laugh. And she does that again in The Boss.

Title The Boss
Director Ben Falcone
Starring Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Bell, Peter Dinklage
Writer Ben Falcone, Steve Mallory, Melissa McCarthy
Production Gary Sanchez Productions, On the Day, Universal Pictures

 

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