It’s not that movie comedies can’t aim to be both wacky and sincere; it’s just that they’re so rarely successful when they do. Melissa McCarthy stars as Michelle Darnell, a corporate dragon lady/self-help guru brought down by an insider-trading conviction; left with nothing, she turns to her former assistant (Kristen Bell) to help her rebuild her empire. McCarthy can be wonderfully vulnerable as an actor, and can also play her physicality for broad laughs completely ungrounded in reality. But the screenplay—credited to McCarthy and her husband/director Ben Falcone—tries to have it both ways, giving Michelle a tough childhood that shaped her cutthroat personality while also sending her flying through the air on defective sofa-beds and initiating a massive street brawl between competing bands of baked-goods-selling young girls. You’re always going to get at least a few brilliant moments from McCarthy—especially when a situation is built around her character’s completely irrational confidence—and Bell makes for an appealing foil. There’s just too much awkward collision between the attempt at a redemptive character arc and the part where she’s katana-fighting with Peter Dinklage on a heli-pad.
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