Universal Pictures
Tom Gliatto
April 07, 2016 03:00 PM

Every new Melissa McCarthy performance, even in a movie as uneven as The Boss, makes you marvel at her talent: the extravagant physical comedy, the outrageousness that never blots out believability, the skill at parsing out a single gag line so that it multiplies like loaves and fish. In comedy she’s up there with Mike Myers. And beyond that? Her Wonder Woman might have been great, too.

Here, redheaded and with her chin nestled in turtlenecks – a look that suggests, depending on the scene, Lucille Ball or Tootsie – she’s Michelle Darnell, a ruthless motivational star who preaches a gospel of acquisition and money. She’s the anti-Oprah, at the very least. She may also house hints of Suzie Orman and Martha Stewart. McCarthy, who first hatched the character years ago while doing improv with the Groundlings comedy troupe in L.A., embraces so many elements in building a performance, it’s hard to imagine what she might have left out.

The movie itself, directed by Ben Falcone, McCarthy’s husband, doesn’t make a lot of sense: Michelle’s path to redemption, it turns out, somehow involves both violence and brownies. That is not a smooth script.

How much that matters in a Melissa McCarthy comedy is up to you. If you expect another Bridesmaids or Spy, in which narrative and character advance in like proportion – if, for instance, you reach the end of this movie and can see no reason Michelle should be locked in live-or-die combat on a skyscraper roof with a former lover (Peter Dinklage) – then Boss likely isn’t for you.

If, after you’ve left the theater, you’re apt to remember and savor strange, random bits – like the moment in which Michelle keeps yanking on the loose bra strap of a much-too-kind underling (Kristen Bell) while boasting about the very unusual construction of her own bosom – you probably won’t mind too much, if at all.

Opens April 8, R.

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