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THE BOSS

*1/2

DIRECTED BY Ben Falcone

STARS Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Bell

They say that love is blind, but when it comes to starring in a movie co-written and directed by your spouse, it can also prove to be deaf and dumb. As in tone-deaf and very, very dumb.

Melissa McCarthy has exploded as a screen comedienne thanks to her projects with filmmaker Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, The Heat and Spy), and she ably demonstrated her dramatic chops when writer-director Theodore Melfi smartly utilized her in St. Vincent. But in the two films she’s made in tandem with husband Ben Falcone, Tammy and now The Boss, she’s been provided with material far beneath her abilities – a surprise, since she herself co-wrote both films with her hubby.

The Boss is marginally better than Tammy, but that’s only because it doesn’t grow hopelessly maudlin, electing instead to remain a comedy right to the end. Of course, like practically all comedies centering on a boorish and unlikable individual, this wraps up with a few insincere moments of character maturity and empathy, but here such bits are no harder to take than the desperate gags flailing and falling flat at a rapid clip.

As Michelle Darnell, a millionaire and self-help guru who loses everything after she’s arrested for insider trading, McCarthy has a few funny lines that she delivers with her usual aplomb. Mostly, though, the film puts her in situations which are humiliating rather than hysterical, and, worse, everyone around her (with the exception of the typically dull Kristen Bell) has been ordered to go over the top with their grotesque characterizations.

Among those suffering a direct hit is Peter Dinklage, who managed to mine some laughs in last year’s equally dismal Pixels but here can’t inspire even an upturned lip corner. At one point, his character gets to wield a Samurai blade, and it’s an apt visual: Here’s a movie that needs to fall on its own sword and put everyone out of their misery.

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