The Boss tosses its cookies on Blu-ray, delivering a solid technical presentation of a so-so comedy that isn’t as bad as one would have thought.
The Production: 2/5
To be honest, I did not have high expectations for The Boss when I sat down to experience it. Between the over-the-top trailer and the usual penchant for Melissa McCarthy movies to seek the lowest common denominator, this movie had plenty of open manholes in which it could have dropped. And yet, the actual movie here has a few funny moments and doesn’t spend nearly the time one would have thought on uncomfortable material. The basic plot, as mostly given away in the trailer, is actually fairly sweet-natured. Ruthless tycoon/celebrity Michelle Darnell (Melissa McCarthy) is jailed for insider trading and loses her empire. Upon her release from prison, she moves in with her former assistant Claire (Kristen Bell) and her assistant’s 10 year old daughter Rachel (Ella Anderson). Needing a way to start her business empire anew, she decides to market her own version of Girl Scout cookies, applying all the wrong lessons from her cutthroat Wall Street years to her recruited kids. Along the way, she’s opposed by her business nemesis Renault (Peter Dinklage), who plots to destroy her once again. That’s the long and short of it – and it allows for some funny gags along the way, along with some fairly cloying moments as Darnell’s humanity comes to the fore. Fans of Melissa McCarthy will really enjoy this movie, as it gives her a chance to really indulge one of her favorite Groundlings creations to its fullest extension.
SPOILERS: The movie is built from a 2005 Groundlings sketch created by Melissa McCarthy, a live infomercial featuring Michelle Darnell, a ruthless businesswoman who’s ready to show YOU TOO how to be successful in business. In the sketch, she offers great life lessons, including “Successful Businesswomen are Sad and Lonely” and tips on how to take a pratfall and then sue the heck out of the idiot who helps you stand back up. The sketch presents a fully-built character, all the way down to Darnell’s turtleneck sweater look. (The sketch is included in its entirety on the Blu-ray as a bonus feature, thankfully) For this new movie, McCarthy and her husband, Ben Falcone, have brought the character back and constructed a full-length feature film around her, showing her rise, fall and second rise. (One really has to think that movies like this take their cue from VH1’s legendary “Behind The Music” series, where the same progression usually applied…) And there’s definitely some comedy gold to be mined here. The notion of a person like Suze Ormond crossed with the instincts of a Leona Helmsley is a fun one, particularly if you’re going to play out the string of sending that person to jail and watching what happens to her afterwards. The clear decision made by McCarthy and Falcone has been to try to humanize Darnell, specifically by pairing her off with a pre-teen girl and then setting her up as the leader of a group of anti-Girl Scouts. Of course, first they need to show how far down the ladder Darnell has fallen, including being forced to sleep on a rebellious hide-a-bed on Claire’s sofa. (The moment featured in the trailer of the bed throwing Darnell into the wall is probably the single funniest moment in the movie.)
MORE SPOILERS: For Darnell’s rise back to the top, the movie starts making a series of improbable and frankly unbelievable choices, starting with the idea of having Darnell talk Claire into making an impossible number of irresistible brownies. How in the world Claire can do all this baking is a significant head-scratcher, even after she improbably quits her job to continue the idea. But the movie wants to push this situation farther – it has Claire and Rachel talk a group of girls (mostly the outcasts and misfits, judging from who we see) into joining her newly minted “Darnell’s Darlings” – a group that comes across as somewhere between a tough Scout troop and a group of Young Army Rangers. If you can accept that premise, the movie delivers a confrontation between the Darlings and their rival Scouts that turns into something along the lines of The Matrix meeting Freaky Friday. This moment of complete martial arts mayhem goes so far over the top that it actually becomes funny here and there. That is, when the viewer is not wondering what the heck the filmmakers were thinking when they were shooting it…
MORE SPOILERS: The movie’s third act deals with the inevitable crisis of conscience that must strike Darnell if we are to believe she really has found some humanity in her time with Claire and Rachel, even after she starts to believe that Claire is moving against her with her old nemesis Renault. Unsurprisingly, she can’t maintain her tyrannical edge like she used to, especially when she realizes that her mentor in her ruthless business ways (Kathy Bates) is really a fraud who pays people to act as though they were family members to her. The movie then quickly has Darnell make up with Claire and run what may be the strangest and most unnecessary heist sequence ever inflicted in a motion picture, as the good guys break into Renault’s penthouse to steal their contract back. And I’m not sure that the payoff of a swordfight between Melissa McCarthy and Peter Dinklage really is worth the price of admission or anything else.
SPOILERS DONE: The end result of The Boss is a movie that’s a little long, more than a little unbelievable and not something that I’d issue a blanket recommendation to for purchase. But I can acknowledge that it has a good-natured side and that there are some genuinely funny moments here and there along the way. Even in its most lowball moments, there’s usually something genuinely silly to take the edge off of the usual levels of uncomfortable humor that pop up in McCarthy’s movies. McCarthy’s fans will no doubt enjoy this and will certainly to pick it up. (It’s ironic that this movie will wind up as more proportionately successful than the much larger Ghostbusters release that has unfortunately not delivered what its makers hoped to see.)
The Boss is being presented here both in its R-Rated Theatrical Cut, and in a longer Unrated Cut that runs 6 additional minutes. For purposes of this review, I watched the longer cut.
The Boss was released on Blu-ray last week, on July 26th. The packaging includes Blu-ray and SD DVD editions of the movie. Both the Blu-ray and the DVD editions contain both the R-Rated Theatrical Cut and the longer Unrated Cut. The DVD contains a few of the bonus features, but not the original sketch or the making-of featurettes. Instructions for downloading a digital copy of the movie are included on an insert in the packaging.
3D Rating: NA
The Boss is presented in a 1.85:1 1080p AVC transfer (avg 31 mbps) that presents a wide variety of environments and flesh tones without much fuss. In technical terms, this is a great looking disc.
The Boss is presented in an English DTS-HD Master Audio mix (avg 4.5 mbps, going up to 5.9 mbps for the bigger moments). This is a fine mix, including plenty of moments for the music to fill the surrounds and the subwoofer to pipe in. There are also DTS 5.1 mixes in French and Spanish, and an English DVS 2.0 track. The DVS track is only available on the Theatrical Cut.
Special Features: 3/5
The Blu-ray of The Boss comes with about as much bonus material as one could want to see for the movie, including deleted and extended scenes, an alternate ending, a gag reel (culled from the movie’s end credits), a pair of featurettes about the making of the movie and a tape of the original Michelle Darnell sketch from a 2005 Groundlings performance. The DVD edition includes most of the bonus material but leaves out the featurettes and the original sketch. Both editions contain previews for other releases – the difference being that the Blu-ray uses online previews while the DVD has them on the actual disc.
Alternate Ending (2:00, 1080p) (AVAILABLE BOTH ON BLU-RAY AND DVD) – This alternate coda to the movie features Dave Bautista as Chad, the leader of a rival group of Boy Scouts with their own treats for sale. As one might imagine, Chad’s group and Darnell’s Darlings are incompatible, leading to a no-holds barred grudge match between Melissa McCarthy and Bautista. Moments of this ending were featured in the movie’s trailer, leading viewers to wonder where Bautista went after the scene was cut. This material should answer that question.
Deleted Scenes (14:10, 1080p) (AVAILABLE BOTH ON BLU-RAY AND DVD) – Ten deleted scenes are presented here, totaling just over 14 minutes. There’s nothing particularly critical here – just additional beats and jokes along the way.
Extended/Alternate Scenes (16:15, 1080p) (AVAILABLE BOTH ON BLU-RAY AND DVD) – Seven scenes from the movie are given extensions or alternate versions here. Again, there’s nothing particularly critical here. If anything, this is a chance to see the cast doing further improvisations past what was included in the movie.
Gag Reel (3:54, 1080p) (AVAILABLE BOTH ON BLU-RAY AND DVD) – A quick gag reel is included here. It’s actually the same footage used in the movie itself over the end credits. Here, the viewer can see the footage without the credits rolling by on the other side of the screen.
Michelle Darnell Original Groundlings Sketch (7:25, 1080p) (EXCLUSIVE TO BLU-RAY) – Here’s the best special feature on the Blu-ray. It’s the original live infomercial sketch from McCarthy’s time with the Groundlings, taped (or digitized) in 2005. It’s pretty funny material and it gives you everything you need to know about Michelle Darnell. And it’s all done in 7 ½ minutes. To my mind, it’s actually more entertaining than the movie in this compact delivery.
Origin Story (7:16, 1080p) (EXCLUSIVE TO BLU-RAY) – This featurette actually gets a lot done in a short time – mostly by spending as much of it as possible in visiting with the cast and writers of the movie. As it shows, nearly all of the cast come from McCarthy and Falcone’s time with the Groundlings, and the movie can be seen as a culmination of their ideas about this character and her world.
Peter Dinklage Gets to the Point (8:11, 1080p) (EXCLUSIVE TO BLU-RAY) – This featurette really focuses, obviously, on Peter Dinklage’s participation in the movie, including the training he needed to get for the climactic scene in the penthouse. Dinklage himself makes a pretty funny point about his pretentious character Renault, whose real name is Ron but who feels he must put on airs. Dinklage compares this to Americans who go to London and can be heard having suddenly acquired a “British” accent not five minutes after they’ve arrived…
Everybody Loves Kristen Bell (6:50, 1080p) (EXCLUSIVE TO BLU-RAY) – This featurette covers Kristen Bell, who is unanimously praised by everyone else in the production.
DVD Edition – An SD DVD of the movie is included in the packaging, containing both versions of the movie in an anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer and Dolby Digital 5.1 sound in English, French and Spanish (@448 kbps), as well as the English DVS track (albeit with the DVS track only working on the Theatrical Cut). Of the Special Features, the DVD carries just the Alternate Ending, the Deleted Scenes, the Extended/Alternate Scenes and the Gag Reel from the end credits.
Digital and Ultraviolet Copies – Instructions for obtaining digital and Ultraviolet copies of the movie are available on an insert in the packaging.
The film and special features are subtitled in English, French and Spanish. The usual pop-up menu is present, along with a complete chapter menu.
The Boss is not a great movie, or even a very good one. But it does have some amusing moments and fans of Melissa McCarthy are likely to enjoy it. The Blu-ray serves up the movie in solid high definition, along with a brace of special features that thankfully include the original Groundlings sketch that introduced the central character.