Melissa McCarthy is a national slapstick treasure, up there with Lucille Ball. As such, she’s reason enough to see any movie — even The Boss, a weak-kneed comedy that would topple without her. She co-wrote the script with her husband Ben Falcone, who doubles as director as he did in Tammy. The result this time is just as hit and miss. But when it hits, yowsa.
McCarthy plays Michelle Darnell, the “47th wealthiest woman in the world” and a ruthless tycoon whom no one weeps for when she’s sent to prison for insider trading. McCarthy created the character 15 years ago when she was a member of the Los Angeles improv troupe the Groundlings. And the role fits her like a second skin. On release from jail after four months, the bankrupt bossypants — who covers her neck with collars and bows to the point of distraction — moves into the cramped Chicago apartment of her single-mom assistant, Claire (a wasted Kristen Bell), and her tween daughter Rachel (Ella Anderson). Michelle treats mom and daughter terribly. She hates the idea of family — “it’s an anchor that will make you sink.” She has her reasons. Flashbacks show the young Michelle as a reject constantly returned to a Catholic orphanage by a series of horrified foster parents. McCarthy doesn’t need soggy sentiment; she’s better than that.
The main plot revolves around the revenge Michele plans against her ex-lover Renault (an outrageous Peter Dinklage), who is also her biggest rival. The two lock horns over building an empire based on selling brownies, from a recipe Michelle stole from Claire. It plays even sillier and more strained then it sounds. No need to go on, except to say that this R-rated farce includes scenes of McCarthy and Dinklage crossing swords and genitals, just not at the same time. The Boss is far from top-tier McCarthy (Bridesmaids, The Heat, Spy), but it’ll do till Ghostbusters comes along in July.