Michelle takes Rachel to a meeting of her Dandelion (think Girl Scout) troop, where she learns, to her horror, that the girls are regularly selling cookies—at high markups, too!—without directly profiting from the effort. Michelle, after happening to sample one of Claire’s “family recipe” brownies, starts a spin-off business, Darnell’s Darlings, recruiting her sellers from the ranks of the Dandelions—the sales are door-to-door, but this time it’s brownies serving as the capitalistic baked good. Michelle founds the new group for the same reason she does anything, and everything, else: to make money.
This is all, its weird specificity not withstanding, a promising premise for a wacky comedy: a little bit Troop Beverly Hills, a little bit Bad News Bears, a little bit—via a balletically violent street fight between the Dandelions and the Darlings, whose uniforms channel Che Guevara but whose motivations channel Donald Trump—Reservoir Dogs. But it’s a lot to balance. And The Boss, for all the star-power the film has behind it—indeed, for all the Melissa McCarthy it has behind it—can’t seem to decide what kind of movie it is. Or even what kind of comedy it is. Is it bringing heart to slapstick, the way those other McCarthy vehicles, Spy and The Heat, did so effectively? Is it bringing slapstick to heart, à la Bridesmaids? It’s unclear. Instead, The Boss is a whiplash-inducing muddle, pratfalling one moment and heartstring-ing the next.
The only thing that is very, very clear: The movie revels in its R rating. It takes gleeful, snickering, often sneering pleasure in its ability to swear and otherwise be-potty its mouth. Michelle’s former mentor, Ida (Kathy Bates, excellent but also sadly underused here), refers to Michelle as “a businesswoman, a visionary, a leader” and also “a cocksucker” and “a professional fuckface.” Michelle at one point hisses to an adversary, “You’re a real B-I-T-C-U-N-T.” She announces to Claire, “I’m going to give you a raise so big you’ll cream your jeans and shat your chaps.” There is much more in this vein, but you get the idea.
The movie also takes childish delight in swear-saying of a more figurative variety. Michelle and the guy who sold her out to the SEC, Renault (Peter Dinklage), used to date; we get lots of scenes of them acting on their continued attraction to each other—scenes supposed to be hilarious, apparently, because of the differing proportions of the actors involved. One of The Boss’s other long, drawn-out gags finds Michelle and Claire feeling (and squeezing, and slapping) each others’ breasts—the point of the whole exercise seeming to be the excuse for Michelle to explain to Rachel, when the girl inevitably walks in on them, “We were jostling each other’s bosoms.” There are also jokes about vaginal rejuvenation, and the self-tanning of the crotch, and … well, again, you get the idea. And there is, overall, a toss-it-to-see-what-sticks tone to the proceedings. (At one point, indeed, via an unruly sleeper couch, the film literally throws McCarthy up against a wall—one of its few non-predictable gags, maybe, but one, too, that treats its star like so much human spaghetti.)