THE BOSS (15, 99 mins) Comedy/Drama/Romance. Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Bell, Peter Dinklage, Ella Anderson, Tyler Labine, Kathy Bates, Cedric Yarbrough, Margo Martindale. Director: Ben Falcone.
Released: June 10 (UK & Ireland)
What a difference two years makes.
In the summer of 2014, actress Melissa McCarthy and husband Ben Falcone ended her winning streak of hilarious big-screen comedies with the misfiring road movie Tammy, which they co-wrote and he directed.
Love and marriage didn’t come together in a script packed with belly laughs.
Unperturbed by Tammy’s critical mauling, McCarthy and Falcone rekindle their unholy alliance in front of and behind the camera for this brash comedy about an egocentric businesswoman, who is forced to rebuild her life after a stint behind bars.
The Boss improves on its predecessor in one crucial respect: it is sporadically funny and the ebullient leading lady strains every sinew in her single-minded quest to milk laughs from pratfalls.
A throwaway visual gag of a mouthguard is silly enough to induce snorts of derision, while a scene of sisterly bonding over what to wear to a first date showcases McCarthy’s gift for physical humour (at the expense of her co-star’s blushes).
However, husband and wife haven’t learnt from past transgressions.
They haven’t invested enough time in fully realising the characters, some gags lack punchlines, and in the closing act, they risk a hostile takeover from mawkish sentiment.
Michelle Darnell (McCarthy) was raised at the Blessed Sisters Of Mercy orphanage, where efforts to find the youngster a loving, adopted family ended in crushing disappointment.
Emboldened by her humiliating ordeal, Michelle becomes America’s 47th richest woman until her dubious ethics result in a five-year prison sentence for insider trading.
She emerges without any friends to greet her.
Her bodyguard Tito (Cedric Yarbrough) has abandoned her and long-suffering personal assistant Claire Rawlings (Kristen Bell) has a young daughter Rachel (Ella Anderson) to nurture.
In desperation, Michelle turns up unannounced on Claire’s doorstep and takes up temporary residence on a temperamental sofa bed.
From this low-rent headquarters, Michelle doggedly resolves to rebuild her empire by creating a flourishing chocolate brownie business from Claire’s moreish secret recipe.
Moderate success brings the shamed business mogul back into contact with her aggrieved rival, Renault (Peter Dinklage), and former mentor Ida Marquette (Kathy Bates).
Meanwhile, single mother Claire nervously prepares for a date with nice guy Mike (Tyler Labine).
The Boss is a pleasant, fleeting diversion that fulfils the most basic requirement of a comedy: it makes you laugh.
McCarthy barrels through every frame with gusto and Bell dutifully plays the straight woman caught in the eye of the tornado.
True, some of the giggles are inelegant and hard won but it’s a vast improvement over the tumbleweed of Tammy.
Effort exceeds reward throughout Falcone’s film, but on the few occasions the script, performances and direction align, it is genuinely funny and sweet.
:: SWEARING :: SEX :: VIOLENCE :: RATING: 5.5/10
MOTHER’S DAY (12A, 118 mins)
Released: June 10
Working to the same template as his films Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve, writer-director Garry Marshall assembles a starry A-list cast for this ensemble romantic comedy set in the run-up to Mother’s Day. Sandy (Jennifer Aniston) is struggling to come to terms with the breakdown of her marriage and the sobering realisation that her husband left her and their two children, for a younger woman, Tina (Shay Mitchell). Meanwhile, Kristin (Britt Robertson) excitedly prepares for her wedding, but she is haunted by the knowledge that she was adopted at birth. With encouragement from her best friend Jesse (Kate Hudson), who never sees her mother, Kristin decides to track down her birth parent and her detective work leads to successful writer Miranda (Julia Roberts), who never considered that she would one day have to face the child she gave away.
WHEN MARNIE WAS THERE (U, 103 mins)
Released: June 10
Nominated as Best Animated Feature at this year’s Oscars, writer-director Hiromasa Yonebayashi’s tender coming-of-age story is sensitively adapted from Joan G Robinson’s book of the same name. Twelve-year-old Anna Sasaki (voiced by Sara Takatsuki) lives in Sapporo with her foster parents, but she remains emotionally aloof, conscious that they are only taking care of her because the state pays them. Following a severe asthma attack in the city, Anna’s foster mother Yoriko (Nanako Matsushima) sends the girl to spend the summer with relatives Kiyomasa and Setsu Oiwa (Susumu Terajima, Toshie Negishi), who live by the sea where there is less smog. In this coastal idyll, Anna is inextricably drawn to a crumbling mansion, located across an overgrown salt marsh. She encounters a young girl called Marnie (Kasumi Arimura) and becomes drawn into the history of the mansion and the people who used to live there. An English language dubbed version of When Marnie Was There screens at selected cinemas.
LEARNING TO DRIVE (15, 90 mins)
Released: June 10 Based on an article written by Kartha Pollitt in The New Yorker, Learning To Drive is a gentle comedy directed by Isabel Coixet about two people from different backgrounds, who are thrown together by fate. Acerbic author Wendy Shields (Patricia Clarkson) is stunned when her unfaithful husband Ted (Jake Weber) leaves her. Suddenly, she is forced to become self-sufficient and Wendy begins that journey of discovery by taking driving lessons, so she doesn’t have to rely on public transport. Her instructor is a mild-mannered Indian Sikh called Darwan (Ben Kingsley), who is in the throes of an arranged marriage. He gives Wendy the confidence to take control behind the wheel and, in turn, she teaches Darwan valuable life lessons about the enduring power of love and value of friendship.
GLOBE ON SCREEN: THE MERCHANT OF VENICE (Certificate TBC, 165 mins)
Released: June 10
Jonathan Munby directs Jonathan Pryce as money lender Shylock in this critically acclaimed staging of Shakespeare’s drama, which was recorded live on the stage of Shakespeare’s Globe in London last year. Bassanio (Dan Fredenburgh) asks his merchant friend Antonio (Dominic Mafham) for a loan of 3,000 ducats so he may travel to Belmont and woo his sweetheart, the lovely heiress, Portia (Rachel Pickup). Unfortunately, all of Antonio’s ships are at sea, so he is forced to borrow the funds from Jewish moneylender Shylock (Pryce), who tricks Antonio into promising a pound of his own flesh if he cannot pay the 3,000 ducats back in time. Antonio’s ships are subsequently lost and with the vessels, his personal fortune vanishes. Back in Venice, Shylock demands his pound of flesh and spirited Portia resolves to teach the moneylender a swift and brutal lesson in humility.
WHERE TO INVADE NEXT (15, 120 mins)
Released: June 10
Documentary maker Michael Moore continues his scabrous survey of modern culture with this light-hearted tour of the world, in which he visits numerous countries to see which policies might be imported across the Atlantic to improve the way of life of his fellow Americans. He is enamoured with the seven weeks of paid holiday set aside for employees in Italy, and believes that the education system in Finland is much more kind to students, overlooking standardised testing so young minds can develop and flourish without judgement at an early age. The French custom of providing delicious school lunches puts the food served by American school canteens to shame and in Iceland, Moore is impressed by the number of women serving in the upper echelons of the political establishment. Through this witty travelogue, shot over the course of six years, Moore ponders if the best way for America to move forward is to stop looking inwards.
THE CONJURING 2 (15, 134 mins)
Released: June 13
Directed by James Wan, one of the twisted geniuses responsible for the Saw franchise, the 2013 supernatural horror The Conjuring was one of the surprise hits of the year. This sequel, with Wan back in the director’s chair, draws inspiration from the notorious real-life case of the Enfield poltergeist, which sent shivers down the spine in the late 1970s. Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga) have gone into self-imposed exile to recover – emotionally and spiritually – from their first brush with malevolent spirits. They are compelled to return to active duty by terrified single mother Peggy Hodgson (Frances O’Connor), who claims that her house in north London is in the grip of a dark, invisible force. The Warrens travel to England and meet Peggy and her four daughters, who are clearly spooked by events in their home. When youngest child Janet (Madison Wolfe) shows the unmistakable signs of demonic possession, Ed and Lorraine prepare for battle for the family’s souls and consequently, they become the targets for the malicious spirit’s fury.