Movie review: "Boss" fires cheap laughs

Brad Keefe, Columbus Alive

Melissa McCarthy is better than this, but it's hard to argue she isn't seemingly giving the people what they want.

"The Boss" is another McCarthy vehicle that shows her comedic chops, heart and too much of a willingness to follow the Adam Sandler career path. (Although, admittedly, that's worked out pretty well for him, despite years of drubbing at the hands of critics.)

McCarthy plays Michelle Darnell, a brash self-made mogul who packs in crowds with her speeches about getting effin' rich - and an ill-advised rap number.

When Darnell is busted for insider trading, she spends the requisite few months in a white-collar prison before being released to find all her assets have been seized.

She ends up crashing on the couch of her former long-suffering assistant (Kristen Bell), a single mom who lives in her tiny Chicago apartment with her daughter (Ella Anderson). Darnell hatches her plan to return to riches. Mixed hilarity ensues.

"The Boss" marks McCarthy's reunion with director Ben Falcone, whom she last worked with on "Tammy," itself a crass comedy that I liked more than most critics (and even more than McCarthy's last hit comedy, "Spy").

When "The Boss" is on, it's on. I'm grateful that they decided to not pull PG-13 punches, because McCarthy going passive-aggressive and foul-mouthed in front of a bunch of stand-in Girl Scouts is solidly funny. Her delivery here is on-point throughout.

But there's also way too much willingness to go for cheap laughs. The biggest laughs of the screening audience tended to come with the physical humor. I personally like McCarthy's work better than the stuntwoman who took her massive pratfalls for her.

While the rags-to-riches setup is often sloppy, it does set up a pretty great dynamic between the two lead actresses - and it's more interesting than your typical buddy comedy in that regard.

Admittedly, I'm a sucker for Kristen Bell, and dammit if she doesn't melt me like a baby sloth at a birthday party here. She adds the right amount of sweet to McCarthy's salty.

"The Boss" is a crowd-pleaser, in the same sense as the films the aforementioned Sandler is good (?) at, but I tend to think you can be smart and have your dumb laughs, too. Too many of the latter here.

"The Boss"

Opens Friday

2½ stars out of 4