Melissa McCarthy as ‘The Boss’: A Near-Miss

It’s hard to define good taste, but it’s easy to recognize its absence. That’s the problem with The Boss. So much of Melissa McCarthy’s new movie is hilarious that it’s frustrating to watch it cross the line and never quite recover. Even the punchline gag is unfunny and left the audience I saw it with audibly uncomfortable—and strangely silent. That’s not how you want to have people leave a theater.

McCarthy is in top form as the world’s 47th richest woman, a self-made billionaire whose unhappy childhood at an orphanage and a series of foster homes has made her ferociously self-reliant and ruthless in her business dealings. Just ask her onetime boyfriend, Peter Dinklage, with whom she is now engaged in a blood feud. He rats her out to the government and looks on with smug satisfaction as she is imprisoned for insider trading. When McCarthy emerges from the hoosegow she has no one to turn to except her longtime, long-suffering assistant, single mom Kristen Bell and her wide-eyed daughter (nicely played by Ella Anderson).

Melissa McCarthy-Kristen Bell-680

Photo by Hopper Stone – Courtesy of Universal Studios

The premise of The Boss, written by McCarthy, her husband Ben Falcone (who also directed) and Steve Mallory, is pretty good. McCarthy creates an outrageously funny leading character whose non-stop, potty-mouthed insults are hard to resist, even if you’re embarrassed to be laughing at some of them. But when she starts a Girl Scout-like organization to sell Bell’s delicious brownies the film takes an unexpectedly ugly turn, especially in one scene that I won’t describe. You’ll know it when you see it.

If you’re a dedicated McCarthy fan you’ll still want to see The Boss. It made me laugh out loud, which doesn’t happen all that often. But I came away discouraged that the talented people who made it couldn’t deliver the solid, satisfying comedy it might have been. McCarthy’s talent deserves, and demands, better.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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May 2024