Arts & Entertainment, Features

REVIEW: Melissa McCarthy is “The Boss” of genuine laughter

Melissa McCarthy delivers nonstop laughs as Michelle, a mogul convicted of insider trading, in her new comedy, “The Boss.” The film opens Friday. PHOTO COURTESY UNIVERSAL PICTURES
Melissa McCarthy delivers nonstop laughs as Michelle, a mogul convicted of insider trading, in her new comedy, “The Boss.” The film opens Friday. PHOTO COURTESY UNIVERSAL PICTURES

I don’t usually like cinematic comedy. Or rather, I don’t like what it’s become.

There seems to be a notion shared among the Hollywood executives that comedy is whatever gross-out, lowbrow, simplistic humor the likes of Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen can cram down the collective throats of their viewers, taking us all for idiots and making millions of dollars per year in the process.

It was extremely refreshing to see that Melissa McCarthy’s “The Boss” did its absolute best to stay out of that low comedy, dumb audience, easy money formula. And for the most part, it succeeded.

“The Boss” follows Michelle Darnell (McCarthy), a character McCarthy invented during her time at The Groundlings comedy club, where she met her now-husband and director of “The Boss,” Ben Falcone.

Michelle is a motivational speaker with Oprah’s charisma and wealth and Donald Trump’s filter. She is arrested for insider trading and attempts to reinvent herself after being jailed by her rival — and once lover — Renault (Peter Dinklage).

Aiding Michelle in her phoenix-like revival is her former assistant Claire (Kristen Bell) and her daughter Rachel (Ella Anderson), as she attempts to turn a Girl Scout troop into a merciless, commercial, cookie-selling machine.

“The Boss” forgoes using star power to boost itself (although it does feature some great cameos from the likes of Kristen Schaal and Kathy Bates) or, as mentioned before, any sort of scatological or forcibly shocking humor. Instead, it goes for a focus entirely on the character of Michelle Darnell and how the world reacts to her.

Michelle says what she wants and does what she wants with zero regard for those around her, and while that would usually make for an obnoxious character, in McCarthy’s hands it becomes near comedic gold. A special mention goes to the times Michelle squares off against her “rival” in the Girl Scout business, a PTA mom played by Annie Mumolo, a co-producer and writer of “Bridesmaids.”

Add a few well-placed slapstick moments and you’ll get the general gist of the film’s comedy. Another special mention goes to the children portraying the Darnell’s Darlings Girl Scouts — they managed to get to McCarthy and Bell’s level in terms of being funny, something relatively rare for child actors these days.

That isn’t to say that “The Boss” is flawless. The movie goes at the same pace as its trailer, jumping from scene to scene at breakneck speed, perhaps so that the viewer doesn’t lose interest, which is understandable given how recent comedies prefer to drag out jokes to uncomfortable lengths.

One could be forgiven for forgetting some of the plot points established earlier for the sake of character development or plot advancement, an example being Renault’s disappearance after the beginning of the film only to appear near the very end. Another is Michelle’s lack of real family members, who only show up when the plot deems it necessary.

While the humor isn’t as crass as the dreck that passes for comedy tends to be, there are still some moments where McCarthy tries to shock audiences just for the sake of shocking them. In the end, however, every joke gets its fair share of laughs from the audience, and that is what truly matters.

While not necessarily the funniest movie of this year so far, “The Boss” solidifies itself as the best “comedy” movie. If anything, the fact that this was a project entirely created and helmed by McCarthy — something she had wanted to do since her days as an improv comedian — only makes this movie better.

If you want a slight distraction and a good laugh, this is the film for you.

“The Boss” was released Friday in theaters nationwide.

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