THE BOSS (Ben Falcone). 99 minutes. Opens Friday (April 8). See listing. Rating: NNN
The Boss is less a movie than a series of loosely connected sketches featuring Melissa McCarthy as Michelle Darnell, a crass, unapologetically successful Chicago tycoon who’s introduced pumping up her audience (and us) with an elaborate amphitheatre dance number.
She’s a lot of fun, but she’s also an oblivious jerk – and in short order, Michelle goes to prison for insider trading, emerges with nothing, moves in with her former assistant Claire (Kristen Bell), bonds with said assistant’s daughter (Ella Anderson) and hatches a plan to corner the home-baked brownie market and claw her way back to the top.
Honestly, that summary makes the movie sound more structured and conventional than it is. But McCarthy – who co-wrote and co-produced the film with her husband, director Falcone – doesn’t want to be structured and conventional. Give her a standard setup and she’ll find a way to corkscrew through it, leaving everyone else in the scene rushing to keep up.
And like both McCarthy and her character, The Boss is all about refusing to conform to expectations, and nudging the fourth wall to show us how much she’s enjoying every growled insult and pratfall. A running gag that pits her against a snooty mom played by Annie Mumolo is a constant delight.
McCarthy pushes herself into Will Ferrell territory here, nudging against the fourth wall in comic set pieces that feel just slightly removed from normal human behaviour. (The Boss does in fact come from Ferrell and Adam McKay’s Gary Sanchez Productions shingle, who are probably entirely okay with McCarthy and Falcone stealing a key scene from Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy.)
Is it totally successful as a movie? No. It’s a slapdash construction, with unpolished visuals and no third act. You also get the sense that McCarthy and Falcone never quite figure out how to use Peter Dinklage and Tyler Labine as, respectively, Michelle’s nemesis and Claire’s love interest.
But I kept watching to see what McCarthy was going to do next, and I usually enjoyed whatever it was. In a movie like this, that’s really all that matters.