Movie Review: The Boss

So this morning, I heard two DJs on the radio discussing new releases.

First: “This week we have ‘The Boss’ opening…”

Second: “Bruce Springsteen has a movie out?!”

Now that would probably have been a better movie than this one. If you want to describe as a hybrid, you could sum it up as “Troop Beverly Hills” meets every generic redemption Hollywood movie ever made. Like eating green eggs and ham, there are a number of ways an egocentric movie character can seek redemption. For example, Will Ferrell (who produced “The Boss”) has sought redemption on the racetrack (“Talladega Nights”), on the ice (“Blades of Glory”) and on the baseball field (“Kicking and Screaming”). Here, Melissa McCarthy, who co-wrote the movie along with director Ben Falcone, plays a Martha Stewart-ish self-made businesswoman, Michelle Darnell, who overcomes being raised in an orphanage (though the nuns don’t exactly resemble Miss Hannigan) to make it to the top but who’s been left with a pathological fear of closeness. If you’ve seen the trailer, or even just caught part of it, you have basically seen the whole movie – although they do leave out an exciting showdown involving samurai swords, two Dobermans and a high rise.

As is common in such films, Melissa loses everything that matters to her in a comically short period of time. “What? It’s just insider trading – everybody does it!” she protests, as she’s manhandled into a cop car, directly after being humiliated on a TV interview. But she gets sentenced to the same place that Leo DiCaprio did in “The Wolf of Wall Street,” and so is out fairly soon. Melissa can, in fact, convincingly play an ordinary person on film (“St. Vincent”), but here she’s fully in her usual mode: raunchy, klutzy and over the top. “The Boss” co-stars another refuge from hit TV nineties shows, Kristen Bell, who plays Melissa’s long-suffering assistant, and who winds up letting Melissa crash at her place after Melissa is released from prison. Kristen has a refreshingly normal-looking/acting preteen daughter (Ella Anderson), who bonds with Melissa, while her mother is at work, dealing with an even worse boss and a nebbishly cute colleague who really wants to date her. Ella and Melissa attend Ella’s Dandelion Troop meeting, and after learning how low their cookie sales are, Melissa decides to start a “brownie empire,” using a recipe of Kristen’s. But trouble will rear its head in the form of a Dandelion mother who doesn’t take kindly to having her troop members “poached,” and an ex-flame/rival (Peter Dinklage) also is itching to take Melissa down.

The venture is an instant success, but of course, there needs to be friction, including the kind of misunderstanding that happens all the time in such movies. Melissa ends up dueling for her life, after she, Kristen and the boyfriend break into Peter’s place for contrived movie reasons. Hence the samurai sword fight. “The Boss,” shares some similarities to “Tammy,” mainly a main character who could have been a lot wittier than the script lets her, a cameo by Kathy Bates, and the mention of Doritos. I have to admit that if this is intentional product placement, it’s woven very well into the movie. Otherwise, this movie has some funny parts but isn’t the kind of thing you’d want to watch again and again.

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