Our Pledge To You

News

‘The Boss’: When Melissa McCarthy’s so unfunny, it’s depressing

Michelle Darnell (Melissa McCarthy, left) and Claire (Kristen Bell) lead a troop of schoolgirls in "The Boss." | Universal Pictures

It’s just early April, but I have an early contender for the most loathsome, ill-advised, horrible executed, most spectacularly unfunny movie scene of the year.

The setup: Melissa McCarthy’s paroled business mogul Michelle Darnell has recruited a group of schoolgirls to abandon their cookie-selling troop to join her nascent brownie-selling enterprise.

Michelle and her girls are selling brownies door to door on a quiet Chicago street when they encounter the cookie troop and some of their moms.

R-rated insults are exchanged. And then, I kid you not, the moms and the daughters and Michelle the convicted business mogul engage in a full-on brawl, complete with slow-mo acts of violence, chops to the Adam’s apple, adults throwing children to the ground, a car set on fire and Michelle taking a batch of cookies and jamming it into the pants of the woman leading the cookie group.

And I’m holding back with that description.

Maybe this is supposed to be some kind of junior high girl-power statement, but like just about every scene in “The Boss,” it comes across as ugly, mean-spirited and tone deaf.

In earlier scenes, McCarthy’s character insults one young girl by calling her “he,” and disses another by saying she’s destined to become a lesbian when she grows up. Hilarious.

I’m such a fan of so many of the principals in this movie, starting with McCarthy and her husband Ben Falcone, who co-wrote and directed, but this was a dreadful viewing experience, from the awkward and unconvincing setup to the desperate performances to the depressingly unfunny slapstick scenes to the conflicts and resolutions you can see a mile away.

What. Were. They. Thinking.

The prologue tells us McCarthy’s Michelle was a lonely, unloved child who was returned to an orphanage every five years or so.

Cut to present day. Michelle is now the 47th wealthiest woman in America, and she’s such a dynamic presence she can fill the United Center with one of her get-rich seminars, which apparently consist of her rapping poorly and telling the wildly cheering audience they have to believe in themselves and make sure nobody pulls them down.

Peter Dinklage, who can be great in the right role (“The Station Agent,” “Game of Thrones”) but terrible when he overdoes it in comedies, gives maybe the worst performance of his career as Renault, a business tycoon obsessed with taking down Michelle.

Renault provides the feds with evidence Michelle has engaged in insider trading, and Michelle is sent to prison and stripped of all her wealth.

Because this is one of those movies where the main characters have no siblings, parents or close friends, when Michelle is released from prison she looks up her former assistant Claire (Kristen Bell), a single mother now working in a dead-end job.

Claire has a precocious Movie Daughter named Rachel (Ella Anderson). Michelle becomes something of a mentor to Rachel (that’s how we get to that execrable street fight scene), and she starts to think of Claire and Rachel as family — until we get to the inevitable and arbitrary parting of the ways.

How many films have we seen where the romance or the friendship is going swimmingly, and then all of a sudden one of the parties gets gun-shy and disappears, leaving behind a note and gearing us up for the musical montage of everyone living their separate lives? Ugh.

As I’ve said before, even broad comedies should exist in a world that seems somewhat connected to the real world. The Chicago of “The Boss,” the characters in “The Boss,” and what happens to everyone in “The Boss” are beyond cartoonish.

As was the case with “Tammy,” McCarthy has taken a character she created years ago for the improv troupe the Groundlings and developed her into a full-fledged movie character. I would respectfully suggest she not return to that comedic well for a third outing.

I wouldn’t be surprised to hear Michelle Darnell was a hilarious onstage comedic creation. On film, she is a flimsy, one-dimensional, tiresome character, surrounded by equally unconvincing and unfunny players.

Universal Pictures presents a film directed by Ben Falcone and written by Falcone, Melissa McCarthy and Steve Mallory. Running time: 99 minutes. Rated R (for sexual content, language and brief drug use). Opens Friday at local theaters.