The Boss review: “A big fat drag of a movie”

For all her live-wire energy, Melissa McCarthy struggles to raise laughs with her latest comic creation

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★★

This is the second collaboration between Hollywood funny girl Melissa McCarthy and hubby/director Ben Falcone (after 2014’s Tammy), and once again it feels as though he is a ball and chain on her comic energy.

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The Boss is a big fat drag of a movie and McCarthy, throwing herself into it with her usual crackling, live-wire energy, can only lift it in places.

Mr and Mrs both take credit for the script that clunks at every turn after multimillionaire fat cat Michelle Darnell (McCarthy) is publicly disgraced for insider trading and turfed out of her big-ass mansion.

Kristen Bell is the petite blonde sidekick and long-suffering PA, Claire, who is forced to put a roof over Darnell’s head when, mostly, what she wants to do is shove it down the toilet. 

McCarthy plays it typically loud and obnoxious, but unlike her recent performances in The Heat and Spy, she takes it too far here.

Arguably, it’s Falcone giving her too much leeway when, like in Tammy, gags too often culminate in cuss words, and when profanity isn’t the punchline, there’s random violence.

Darnell agrees to take Claire’s young daughter Rachel (Ella Anderson) to the equivalent of a Girl Guides meeting and proceeds to split the room with a plan to sell home-baked treats on a global scale. That leads to a claws-out scrap on the streets of suburban Chicago that plays like a junior Kill Bill.

Apparently schoolgirls kicking the brownie out of each other passes for comedy, but it’s difficult to know who the gags are pitched at. At times the story leans towards good old-fashioned family values (much is made of Darnell growing up in care) but the dialogue is fifty shades of blue.

Peter Dinklage is the butt of many a crass joke as Renault, Darnell’s rival in big business and former lover, but they mostly revolve around his height (or lack thereof) and repeated insinuations about his sexual prowess.

He hams it up for all he’s worth, which only confirms his desperation at the lack of genuinely funny material. Kathy Bates steals both scenes she’s in as Darnell’s mentor, so it’s a pity her time on screen is so limited, and Claire’s romance with Mike (Tyler Labine) feels slotted in as an afterthought. 

The finale, which switches to all-action mode when Darnell breaks into Renault’s office, leaves Claire and and Mike exposed as mere props in a series of lame knob, bum and boob jokes. This part also features the umpteenth slow-motion strut towards camera to a thudding hip-hop beat. The effect: humdrum.  

It’s such a shame because Michelle Darnell is a promising comic creation, with dollar signs for eyes, a hard-nosed attitude and polo-neck jumpers unrolled to the jaw that threaten to swallow her head completely. When allowed to cut loose and improvise, McCarthy affords her a few witty lines as well – she’s particularly scathing in a confrontation with her male peers at a country club luncheon.

Of course, it’s a tirade peppered with filth, and things get unintentionally awkward because Darnell has no other strings to her bow. McCarthy’s innate charm shines through and there is no doubting her prodigious talent as a comedy actress, but all that still isn’t enough to counter Darnell’s abrasive, in-your-face approach, which is apparently shared by the man who calls the shots behind the camera.

Quite simply McCarthy works very hard for little or no pay-off.

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The Boss is released in cinemas on Friday 10 June