A coding error erased 80% of this review earlier today — sorry: I didn’t laugh at Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone‘s The Boss (Universal, 4.8), but I respect the conviction that informs it. Melissa McCarthy plays Michelle Darnell, a self-hating, emotionally blocked, Type-A butch boss who reminded me, frankly, of two or three Hollywood-serving women I could mention, and she really owns the Lucretia McEvil. On top of which The Boss delivers almost no conventional late-in-the-second-act softening moments. Okay, Michelle grows a slight heart toward the end but only a little bitty one. Mostly she just bitches out in the ugliest way imaginable, and it’s pretty damn great for that.
This is one pissy, misanthropic, “we hate everyone and everything including our own selfish selves” diarrhea comedy. Okay, it softens up here and there (no pun intended) but you can almost ignore these portions. It suggests from time to time that little girls (particularly Ella Anderson‘s Rachel, who plays the 11 year-old daughter of Kristen Bell‘s marshmallow mom) aren’t so bad but it also says other girls are filled with just as much poison as the adults. Love it! And it romantically pairs Bell with the fat-assed Tyler Labine, a jowly Canadian comedian who would never score with a Kristen Bell-type in real life, but The Boss runs with Judd Apatow‘s schlumpies-and-dumpies aesthetic and does it anyway. Plus it delivers an extra-creepy Peter Dinklage performance…I can’t go into it, too strange to describe.
The Boss doesn’t make you laugh but it does make the case for no-laugh funny like no film since Ishtar. It has a rancid attitude and a belief system that is 100% bile and hostility, and you have to hand it to McCarthy/Falcone, seriously, for embracing this and never backing away from it, and for throwing in all kinds of perverse sexual seasonings. This movie hates you, hates God, hates itself…the only thing it doesn’t hate are the little girls but halfway through there’s a savage street rumble between a goody-two-shoes girl scout troupe and a snarly, opportunistic girl gang run by Michelle, and what results is pretty close to The Road Warrior.
The best comedies deliver a tone and a world-view that is steady and whole and consistent, and everybody and everything sucks in The Boss…hate, hate, hate, hate. Okay, I laughed at an image of a black guy in an office who’s so morose and dispirited that he’s gone to sleep in his chair…genuinely funny! But otherwise there’s nothing to actually make you “laugh” in this thing. Okay, some people howled when McCarthy was thrown against a wall by a Murphy bed, but that shit isn’t funny, I’m telling you. It never is. The laughers were easy lays. I know because one of them was sitting next to me, and I knew he’d be trouble from the moment he sat down.
So thumbs-up for The Boss as one of the ballsiest, take-no-prisoners comedies in a long time. It is easily the best thing that McCarthy and Falcone have made together. I’m telling you they’ve really gotten hold of something here. If you’ve ever doubted HE’s no-laugh-funny aesthetic, The Boss needs to be not just seen but studied. Just because a comedy doesn’t make you go “hah-hah” doesn’t mean it’s not a solid accomplishment. This is a film with balls of steel.
Ignore the 18% Rotten Tomatoes and 40% Metacritic scores. Most of the critics are judging it according to whether it’s funny or not. If that’s all they’re writing about they don’t get what’s going on here — their loss.