I did not have a good time at The Boss. There’s usually some preamble before I let my opinion slip but this week I just can’t. I refuse to put in more effort than this film did. Believe it or not, I don’t want to write a bile-filled article every week but there’s no other option here. It’s not like I’m sitting here scratching my head wondering how this went wrong either. I know exactly how this went wrong, which is extremely handy knowledge when writing a review of it. So what we have here is an opportunity, nay, a duty to examine bad comedy. I feel like I’ve been drafted. And I’m going to Vietnam. You know,the bad war.
So what’s the story? Michelle Darnell (Melissa McCarthy) is the 47th richest woman in America and she is arrested for conducting insider trading after messing up her rival, Renault’s (Peter Dinklage) business deal oh my God I just remembered Peter Dinklage was in this movie. Why Peter?! First Pixels and now this? Why? Sweet Jesus why?! No, I have to be strong. For Peter. Okay so, all Michelle’s assets are seized and she is forced to live with her former assistant Claire (Kristen Bell) and her daughter Rachel (Ella Anderson). She attends Rachel’s girl scout meeting and gets the idea to start her own girl scout troop to sell the brownies that Claire makes. Along the way she also becomes closer with Claire and Rachel which, due to her fears of the concept of family, is a great source of tension. Can Michelle overcome this anxiety and learn that family isn’t so bad? What the fuck do you think?
The first thing to say is that we’ve seen this structure in a million other movies. Tell me if this sounds familiar. Circumstances have thrust two characters who seem like total opposites together and they set out on a wacky quest that will change their lives forever . But just as they are about to reach their goal they fall apart due to a misunderstanding, allowing the bad guy to win. Both stumble through life to the sound of sad piano/ acoustic guitar/ which ever band were cheaper than Nickleback, until they forgive each other and beat the bad guy’s evil schemes together. I bet you have at least 5 different movies in your head right now after reading that. I have the majority of the Happy Madison library in mine. I want to be clear and say that just because a film has this structure, it doesn’t mean that film is inherently awful. The first two Shrek movies have that structure and they’re awesome, though granted their music is better. But just to make my point, Shrek the Third and Shrek Forever After also have that structure and those movies are dog shit. The point is you can use an old structure and get away with it if you either have a) an interesting way of playing with that structure or b) good content. Needless to say, The Boss doesn’t get away with it.
I’m not going to sit here and say I didn’t laugh once because there are one or two funny scenes in The Boss. But alarm bells should be ringing in your head when I say that in what is ostensibly a comedy there are only “one or two funny scenes”. So what’s wrong with it? For a starters there were way too many scenes where there was nothing one could identify as a joke. I know what you’re thinking. Those were probably the dramatic turning point scenes and its hard to put jokes in there. To which I would say no because there are plenty of pointless scenes just laying there like a corpse in the middle of the film that have no jokes. And for the dramatic turning points, I would recommend that you watch Edgar Wright’s Cornetto Trilogy (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, World’s End). All of it. All the drama in those movies is embedded in the comedy without it losing its punch. Drama and comedy are not mortal enemies. They can co-exist in the same scene without resorting to swords at dawn.
So that’s what happens in scenes with no jokes but what goes on in the scenes with jokes? They over-stay their non-existent welcome, that’s what happens. It’s that brand of Family Guy overly long awkward comedy but while it kind of works there it really doesn’t in The Boss. And I think that part of the reason is the camera. In Family Guy, when they do those awkwardly long conversations, the camera doesn’t move. It sticks with the character(s) and becomes a part of the awkwardness. In The Boss however, the camera keeps moving from the source of the awkwardness, Melissa McCarthy usually, to repeated reaction shots of Kristen Bell gaping at her. Shot, reverse shot without anything happening in the reverse shot. It’s somehow duller than the camera not moving at all.
This brings us onto the performances. And straight away, Melissa McCarthy gave the best performance in the movie because she was the only one who got laughs. However, she shouldn’t enjoy those brownie points just yet as she was also the source of most of the overly long awkward comedy that kills the rest of the film. The rest of the cast is boring. Plain and simple. The characters were given nothing to do in the script and the actors, particularly Kristen Bell, couldn’t breathe any life into them. Though there is one other performance aside from McCarthy’s which stood out. Peter Dinklage did and it was for all the wrong reasons. Just like everyone else, the writing wasn’t there for him so he had little to work with. On a quick sidenote, I was surprised and delighted that the none of the jokes about Dinklage’s character were about him being a little person. That is a good sign that even a film that reaches for the low hanging fruit like this, doesn’t make those jokes in this day and age. But even so, it pained me to watch his scenes and it wasn’t entirely because of how bad the film was. It’s because we all know he’s capable of so much more.
I get it. The money is probably great and it’s good to keep working when in show business because you never know when the well is going to dry up. But I find it extraordinary that an actor of his calibre should be working with crap like this. And I’m not talking about his drama work, though that is incredible with 4 Emmy’s and a Goldenglobe speaking for themselves. I’m talking about his comedy. In Game of Thrones, Tyrion Lannister is unquestionably the funniest character and it’s because of the depth of expression in his face, his timing and his physical presence. So when I see him doing a film like this, I’m sad. Because Peter Dinklage deserves better. And I am willing to support him until he gets the types of roles he has earned. Je suis Dinklage!
Overall, The Boss is a structurally boring film, filled with lacklustre comedy and performances to match and I hope that one day this film is just an unfortunate footnote in the glorious, award-filled story of Peter Dinklage’s life.
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