Personally, I thought Spy was the best comedy of the year last year – with Trainwreck coming in a close second. Most likely because I’m a sucker for quality action-comedy, I think Jason Statham is fantastic (especially in comedies) and Melissa McCarthy excels at character-based outrageous comedy due to her years of work at the Groundlings – an improv comedy troupe.
The Boss, like Tammy (which was a bit of a misfire), is based on another of McCarthy’s Groundling characters. Michelle Darnell bounced from foster home to foster home when young – although we’re given no reason why – and consistently returned to an orphanage. As a result, she learned to be completely self-reliant and isolationistic.
She’s loving her over-the-top life of motivational speaking tours and lavish penthouses when she gets busted for insider trading. She does a few months in a minimum security prison as all her assets are seized and her ex – Renault (or Ronald, as she calls him) buys up all her businesses. Having nothing left when she gets out – she crashes with Claire – who used to be her assistant.
Once there, she learns that Claire makes amazing brownies, and that Claire’s daughter Rachel is in a Girl Scout-type organization. She sees an opportunity and talks Claire and Rachel into helping her found Darnell’s Darlings – a for-profit girls’ organization, where the girls sell the brownies, and a portion of it goes to a college fund for them.
Things take off, and Rachel and Claire begin to get really close to Michelle, which throws her off, because she’s fought off emotional connections her whole life. This, of course, leads to her selling the Darlings to Renault, then regretting it, and apologizing. That, of course, leads to a caper in which Michelle, Claire and Claire’s new boyfriend Mike, attempt to break into Renault’s building to steal back the contract before it gets filed. That, of course, leads to a sword fight (seriously), and a happy ending.
The movie is a perfectly serviceable Melissa McCarthy comedy – she’s capable of so much more, but I think she stands out more in ensemble pieces when she has more people to play off. When she’s carrying the movie, she shines really bright, but can wear out an audience a little quicker. Directed again by her husband, Ben Falcone, this movie is just fine, but not fantastic. Michelle is a horrible person – and while her eventual turn-around is inevitable, some of the things she does prior to that are really unlikeable. I think knowing why she was dropped from so many foster homes would have helped, as it is, we just assume it’s because she is a horrible person. The movie is predictable, but that doesn’t really bother me with a comedy of this sort. It really did not need to be rated R – cleaning up the language here and there would have lowered it to a PG13 pretty quickly. Oh – unless you count the fairly brutal all-out fist fight between the two troupes of girls.
- Melissa McCarthy plays Michelle with 100% commitment, and I did love the assortment of turtlenecks. Clearly it’s her power-garment. I think once she gets a drama that suits her, people will be blown away by her pure acting skill – she can really portray a lot of emotions all at once, and while that doesn’t do anything here – once she finds the right drama, she’s going to be winning awards (remember I said that when she’s winning an Oscar in a few years for some little indie drama movie).
- Kristen Bell has been really good for a really long time and plays Claire here – really the ‘straight-man’ to McCarthy’s over-the-top crazy character. She’s pleasantly uptight and careful, and does a great job at slowly giving in to Michelle’s ‘live loud’ philosophy.
- Peter Dinklage continues to prove he’s really good at comedy as Renault (Ronald), Michelle’s ex. He’s a samurai-obsessed mogul who wants nothing more than to own everything that used to be Michelle’s. Watching him and McCarthy together in scenes was really entertaining.
- Tyler Labine is that guy you know from everywhere, and I have to say – I thought he was fantastic here as Mike. It’s a small role that starts as Claire’s co-worker, then moves to boyfriend. For a guy who is usually cast as the weird best friend – it was really nice to see him step into potential leading man role.
- Kathy Bates has a small appearance as Michelle’s mentor and former business partner, Ida Marquette – now that’s a power name. She’s confident and gruff.
- Cecily Strong has a small role as Claire’s new boss, who just happens to be obsessed with Michelle Darnell – she’s really weird and does a great job at that. I love her on SNL – especially the “girl-you-wish-you-hadn’t-started-a-conversation-with-at-a-party”, but I look forward to seeing her in more movies.
- Cederic Yarbrough from Reno 911 plays Michelle’s driver/bodyguard, Tito.
- Kristen Schaal briefly plays Chrystal – the leader of Rachel’s troupe, who is really there to get frustrated.
- Annie Mumolo plays Hannah – one of the other troupe mothers – she’s there to get into close-up improv-fights with McCarthy – which are pretty great.
- And yes, Ben Falcone shows up briefly as Marty – Michelle’s lawyer.
Overall, it’s certainly funny – maybe not hilarious, but entertaining enough. I loved the break-in sequence, it’s just ridiculous. I also loved that it was just over an hour and a half – perfect length for a comedy. And – outtakes over the credits! That’s the one thing every comedy should have.
6 out of 10 – gained points for all the turtlenecks – lost points for the streetfight, although it was a little funny. Gained points for Tyler Labine – hilarious.
Bonus – Cast Interviews
Bonus – Jason Statham in Spy