A she-wolf of Wall Street with a spiky ginger Suze Orman shag, Michelle Darnell, the antiheroine of fitfully funny The Boss, is the latest of the Rabelaisian wonders played by Melissa McCarthy. The actress specializes in characters with indestructible bravado, no matter where they stand on the socioeconomic ladder; Michelle, "the "47th-wealthiest woman in the world," joins the swaggering sorority formed by Megan in Bridesmaids, Mullins in The Heat and even Tammy in, uh, Tammy. That last film, a muddle of half-thought-out ideas, was ineptly directed by Ben Falcone, McCarthy's husband. That the spouses re-teamed for The Boss made me worry that go-it-alone Michelle's definition of family -- "an anchor that will make you sink" -- would prove all too accurate. The Boss is a better film than Tammy, but it still founders, almost capsizing in its sloppy final third.
Yet The Boss' opening moments showcase McCarthy's brilliance at basking in excess. Michelle boasts that no indulgence is out of her price range: "I had Destiny's Child reunite and come to my personal living room just so I could watch them break up again."
But like Tammy, The Boss gives its star few, if any, hitting partners. It's a baffling decision, considering that McCarthy is not only a terrific ensemble performer, as Bridesmaids demonstrated, but also a generous lead when working with a scene-stealing supporting cast, evidenced in last year's riotous Spy. McCarthy's castmates this time out include Kristen Bell, playing Claire, the one-time assistant Michelle turns to after serving a four-month jail sentence for insider trading. Claire proves a dull foil: She may upbraid her former overseer, but her chastisement is always softened by Bell's inveterate sunny blandness.