[Screen It]


(2016) (Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Bell) (R)

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Comedy: After serving time in prison for insider trading and leaving penniless, a former business tycoon tries to reinvent herself with the help of her former, overworked employee.
Michelle Darnell (MELISSA McCARTHY) runs three big companies, sells out wealth building events, and is the 47th richest woman in the world. A former orphan who was repeatedly returned to the orphanage by families who no longer wanted her, she grew up resilient and determined to succeed, but no longer has much touch with the common folk of the rest of the world. That includes her harried assistant, Claire (KRISTEN BELL), who keeps working for Michelle despite her treatment of her and not even remembering she's a single mom to Rachel (ELLA ANDERSON).

But when Michelle does a business deal that doesn't sit well with her former, spurned lover from long ago, Renault (PETER DINKLAGE), the rival businessman turns her in for inside trading. As a result, she goes to prison and comes out months later penniless. With nowhere else to turn, she ends up staying with Claire who's since moved on and works alongside the likes of Mike (TYLER LABINE) in an unsatisfying job. She isn't pleased with Michelle living with them either, but the former tycoon -- upon tasting Claire's brownies and having spent time with Rachel are her Dandelions scout meetings -- comes up with a plan to make Claire's treats a monster success.

That doesn't sit well with another Dandelion, Hannah (PRESLEY COLEY), or her mom, Helen (ANNIE MUMOLO), but Michelle perseveres, enlisting the aid of Rachel and other Dandelions, including the tall-for-her-age Chrystal (EVA PETERSON), to be her ruthless on foot sales reps, while getting some financial help from her former but now estranged business mentor, Ida Marquette (KATHY BATES). But when Renault gets wind of what his former love is up to, he sets out to undermine her budding success.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
I was recently telling a friend about my days of old writing screenplays and teleplays in college, and occasionally finding myself in "the zone." That's when I'd channel a creative force so strong I didn't have to think while writing. It just flowed out and I had to write as fast as possible to get it all down.

That happened once with a "Cheers" spec script, but my time in the zone was interrupted about midway through. For reasons unknown, I was then locked out of the zone and had to force the rest. And it showed when I read the script in a writing class. The first half elicited lots of laughs from the listeners, but the second resulted in stony silence.

While watching Melissa McCarthy's latest comedy, "The Boss," I wondered if the same thing happened to her when she was writing the script with husband Ben Falcone and co-scribe Steve Mallory. For while the laughs come fast and often furious in the first half of the nearly 100-minute film, especially toward the beginning of that, they all but dry up in the second, resulting in a comedy flick that all-too-obviously runs out of gas long before reaching the finish line.

Like many a McCarthy vehicle, this one similarly features her playing an outlandish character who'd never, ever be considered a so-called shrinking violet. After a brief prologue that shows her as a kid being returned multiple times to an orphanage over the years, we see her in an extravagant "get rich" stadium event where she flaunts her wealth including by saying she brought Destiny's Child back together at her home only to have them break up again for her own enjoyment.

As has been the case in the rest of her films where she plays this sort of character, viewer enjoyment will rest solely on the acceptance, or not, of McCarthy's embodiment of such an outlandish persona, including how she treats her assistant (Kristen Bell) in an absent-minded, passive-aggressive, I'm rich and you're not fashion.

Not surprisingly, her comeuppance occurs when she's convicted of insider trading, spends time in prison, and comes out penniless. And where does she go to live? Yes, natch, with said former employee and her daughter (Ella Anderson) where she briefly interacts with the "common folk" -- including a mother (Annie Mumolo) who doesn't like having a convicted felon at her daughter's Dandelion meetings -- before launching her comeback business. At the same time, her former spurned lover -- played by Peter Dinklage in a very affected fashion -- is torn between wanting her back and desiring to squash her pending business success out of spite.

That's about it in terms of plot, and while the meager and predictable storyline gives the lead actress enough material with which to elicit some outrageous and mean-spirited laughs, those can only carry a pic like this so far. And when they evaporate in the second half as the story sort of meanders all over the place in lame spurts of story development, the overall weakness of the premise and script end up exposed.

Perhaps had the screenplay been read in a college class like mine, those issues would have been identified, and an attempt to get into the comedy zone might have rectified some of those problems. That apparently didn't happen, and thus "The Boss" ends up being sacked in terms of overall entertainment. It rates as a 4 out of 10.

Reviewed April 5, 2016 / Posted April 8, 2016

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