Melissa McCarthy is a genius. Her ability to make people laugh comes through in important and original ways. First, it’s physical. She uses her body to kick, climb and roll with a power we don’t often see afforded to female protagonists, especially not those with larger bodies. When she falls down the stairs or gets flung from a couch bed, she’s like a Looney Toon turned human. Second, it’s verbal. Her gift at spewing insults takes on poetic proportions. “If you don’t get off my back,” she says to one cookie-selling mom, “I’m gonna shove a box of chocolate clusters up that tight ass of yours.” From Bridesmaids (2011) to Spy (2015), McCarthy has evolved into her own brand of comic dynamite. With money to spend and a terrific cast at their disposal, Universal had the potential to make The Boss into a film as lovable as its star. Instead, The Boss is a rehash of Troop Beverly Hills and not even a performer like McCarthy can distract us from the misery of a recycled plot and tedious script.

McCarthy’s fall from grace is especially painful because the film’s set-up is perfect. The wonderfully named Michelle Darnell (McCarthy) is the millionaire you’ve probably seen her smoking a cigar on count less posters currently plastered to the background of our lives. With her red wig, ludicrous wealth and outsized ego, she’s like a combination of Donald Trump, King Louis XVI and Outkast on their Speakerboxxx/The Love Below album cover. Having seen McCarthy as a cop (The Heat), a criminal (Identity Thief) and a penniless road tripper (Tammy), the prospect of seeing her with a 10-digit income is welcome change. In light of the economic crisis, there’s also never been a better time to mock the 1%.

Yet The Boss privileges spectacle over the authentic, improvisational humor that made McCarthy such a magnetic performer in the first place. The film opens with an unnecessary flashback to young Michelle as she’s repeatedly dropped off at an all-girls convent school while ‘80s pop plays in the background. The scene is so quick and loud that it’s hard to tell what’s even happening. The montage is an attempt at explaining Michelle’s acerbic nature as an adult, but rather than explore why she was handed over to a nunnery and essentially abandoned by her parents, a stream of pyrotechnics explodes. Michelle is a fully-grown woman, riding into a sports stadium on a hovercraft. She shouts about wealth and power, but it’s hard to pay attention in light of the confusion we feel. Is Michelle a motivational speaker? A mogul? A wolf of Wall Street? All we know is that she’s rich and that she looks like Paula Deen.

Claire (Kristin Bell) swoops in as the tireless assistant that’s walked over like one of Michelle’s Persian rugs. She’s also a single mother, but Michelle can’t believe it (“Was that through intercourse?”). While Claire whitens Michelle’s teeth, Cedric Yarbrough, the great comic actor of “Reno 911!” supplies a wasted cameo. The extended riff he shares with Michelle about “Who’s on baseball” is one of hundreds of jokes that simply don’t work. The film’s IQ-level is apparently microscopic.

When Michelle’s insider trading is exposed by longtime nemesis Renault (Peter Dinklage), it’s Claire who reluctantly allows the newly poor and unemployable Michelle to stay at her apartment. Here, McCarthy and husband-director Ben Falcone enter ripe territory for comedy. Claire’s middle-class lifestyle could have exposed Michelle’s deluded naiveté in the vein of “The Simple Life,” the reality show starring Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie as millionaires who move in with “regular” people. But Claire’s character is weak and Kristen Bell simply doesn’t have the comic presence to match McCarthy’s.

A new dynamic begins to form when we meet Claire’s daughter Rachel (Ella Anderson). Claire is an earnest, working mother, and in her small apartment there is chaos but also real love. A bond grows between the women and it’s lovely to watch. Michelle partners with Claire and they form a business selling brownies. They’re aided by Rachel and a gang of goals poached from the local Dandelion Troop. Since Claire still has to work, Michelle starts taking Rachel to school and even babysits her at night, albeit with Texas Chainsaw Massacre in the background. Their precious non-normative family unit is disrupted by the ugly head of Hollywood convention. Claire starts dating an aw-shucks good guy (Tyler Labine) and their romance is as exciting as a plank of wood. Michelle freaks out about her emotional repression. Renault returns for revenge. A finale involving swords happens and I’d tell you more it was so boring that I zoned out.

The Boss is a zany comedy held together by trite lessons about “taking risks” and a relentless merry-go-round of gags that are neither clever nor funny. We can only hope that McCarthy’s next crass weirdo has more room to grow—and push, and kick, and spill and fall.

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