While I’m admittedly in the camp of those who believe actress Melissa McCarthy’s on screen persona is best when taken in small doses, I couldn’t help but find myself surprised at how much I enjoyed the actress’ secret agent spoof, Spy, from last summer. The film was so good that it made me rethink my long policy of dismissing most of McCarthy’s cinematic output since her breakthrough success after appearing in the 2011 comedy, Bridesmaids. Spy was a tremendously entertaining effort whose success I hoped would lead to better film projects. Unfortunately, McCarthy has not chosen wisely with her first film effort since Spy. The actress’ latest film is a predictably implausible comedy that’s mostly devoid of laughs, attempting to recycle jokes and situations that would have been old hat twenty years ago. Most of the film’s punch lines can be spotted way in advance and really aren’t that funny when they actually do arrive. All told, I laughed twice during the film. Perhaps that will give some indication of the film’s hit to miss ratio regarding the jokes.
McCarthy is Michelle Darnell, the film’s main character. Darnell is a successful motivational speaker whose life is turned upside down when she’s accused of insider training and forced to serve four months in jail. Upon her exit from jail, she quickly struggles to find her way back and hits on a scheme to start up a business selling brownies and competing with Girl Scout Cookies (yes, you read that correctly). Darnell coerces her former assistant (Kristen Bell) to join her in her schemes which she does but only long enough for the film to run out of laughs and take a left turn towards trite sentimentality in its final act.
McCarthy has once again employed her husband, Ben Falcone, by giving him the position as director of the film, a feat last attempted with horrible results in her 2013 film, Tammy. I can’t help but think that a director such as Paul Feig, the writer and director of Spy, could have found a more interesting vehicle for the characters in this film to inhabit. Falcone, on the other hand, is about as tone deaf as they come in regards to comedy and jokes land with a deadening thud time and again.
Michelle Darnell is an interesting concoction, I will admit. It’s a shame that McCarthy, along with her screenwriting co-conspirators on the film, Falcone and Steve Mallory, don’t give her anything of interest to do beyond the lame shenanigans that the film’s trailer suggests. The actress has stated in interviews that the Darnell character has been around since the days that McCarthy was cutting her teeth doing improv comedy. To me it all comes across as simply a character in search of a film more than anything else. Unfortunately, The Boss isn’t that film.