Melissa McCarthy: American Actress, Screenwriter, Producer
Melissa McCarthy has developed her distinct comedic style that earned critical acclaim and commercial success with Bridesmaids. Following Bridesmaids’ success, Melissa went on to star in Paul Feig-directed cop drama The Heat with Sandra Bullock alongside Paul Feig-directed Tammy, Identity Thief Spy Life of the Party Can You Ever Forgive Me?.
Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids (2001)
McCarthy cemented her place as one of comedy’s leading ladies with this film’s overwhelming success with audiences and critics alike. Co-starring Maya Rudolph as Annie Walker, it follows their battle of wills over fiancees (Rudolph’s). This comedy-drama showcased McCarthy’s outstanding comic talents while exploring serious themes about friendship. Naturally, this success led to multiple nominations at major award shows and garnered McCarthy numerous accolades as a result.
Although the film had a somewhat abrupt conclusion, Annie’s problems were resolved satisfactorily and satisfyingly. She managed to break free from an abusive husband while reconciling with Lillian as her best friend – leaving the door open for potential sequels but it would be difficult to replicate such an effective blend of comedy and drama again.
After Bridesmaids, McCarthy made her next mark as Diane in The Heat – her first leading role since Bridesmaids had received such critical acclaim – which proved she could hold her own as an actress in a leading role. Unfortunately, however, the film itself proved less than successful as McCarthy overplayed her vulgar, uncouth character; unfortunately, the script tried too hard to extract humor from him without success.
Ben Falcone directed McCarthy in five movies total, but this particular effort stands out. His high-concept films – such as this one about an ordinary woman who acquires superpowers like those seen in Skynet – all feel alike – often too emotionally charged, with predictable jokes and over-sentimental material that doesn’t inspire.
The Boss (2016)
Melissa McCarthy has become known for delivering gut-busting laughs. However, even her incredible talents can’t always save a movie from falling flat on its face; The Boss is one such middle-of-the-road comedy that mostly amuses without truly amusing audiences. McCarthy reprises Michelle Darnell from her 15 years prior while performing with the Los Angeles improv troupe the Groundlings; after getting kicked off Forbes list of America’s richest women due to insider trading charges she moves into a cramped Chicago apartment occupied by assistant Claire (Kristen Bell) and daughter Rachel (Ella Anderson).
McCarthy and Falcone co-wrote The Boss with his directorial debut as well, which features plenty of slapstick and physical comedy; unfortunately, it can’t maintain its momentum due to uneven pacing and wearisome jokes; some unexpected yet inspired left-field elements (a sofa bed joke using cartoon physics or seeing cookie crumbs land up in unseemly body crevices) feel forced.
McCarthy shines in The Boss, showing her signature sass and bite, enhanced by the natural chemistry between Bell and Anderson. There are numerous humorous scenes throughout the movie; particularly one in which Michelle accidentally rapes one of Michelle’s rival’s daughters!
But The Boss is an awkward mess of maudlin nonsense that doesn’t provide McCarthy many opportunities to shine, except to chew up the scenery and deliver some of the most predictable punchlines ever seen on screen. While trying to explore a capitalist genius’s mind, The Boss often ends up doing anything but.
Melissa McCarthy in Central Intelligence (2016)
After years of sketch comedy, TV series appearances, and movie bit parts, Melissa McCarthy finally made waves as an actress in 2011’s Bridesmaids, earning herself an Academy Award nomination and cementing her place as the leading lady – which led her to stars on Mike & Molly and its sequel.
She continues to deliver consistently humorous performances and also excels at drama. For instance, in Hulu’s 2021 miniseries Nine Perfect Strangers, she plays Frances, an author struggling to balance career goals with motherhood and personal fulfillment.
Central Intelligence teams up Hart with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in this action-comedy about former high school classmates reuniting as adults and becoming involved with national security matters. Though its narrative may seem predictable, Hart and Johnson’s chemistry elevates its material; additionally, it’s refreshing to see Hart in a straight role and Johnson breaking free of his usual action star persona.
While not one of McCarthy’s finest movies, she does prove she can handle a higher-concept script with ease. Ben Falcone’s film also offers McCarthy an opportunity to demonstrate her dramatic range through her romantic subplot with Bobby Cannavale.
This PG-13 film contains foul language, coarse humor, and explicit violence; thus requiring extreme caution before viewing. Furthermore, there is a nude bullying scene which may not be appropriate for young audiences. While critical reception was generally positive, there has been discussion of a sequel based on Hart and Johnson’s chemistry from this movie; although no official announcement from producers has been given. Fans would surely love seeing them team up again!
The Happytime Murders (2018)
Spy was her breakthrough film career: it allowed her to showcase both her goofball persona and impressive dramatic range. Unfortunately, however, her next movie- a sleazy heist flick full of salacious jokes and puppet sex- proved that she still needed time to learn drama.
In this film, she plays a detective who investigates a murder spree of washed-up sitcom stars living alongside humans and puppets in an alternate-reality world. Though some moments of puppet-on-puppet violence and slow motion shots of fluff and felt exploding bring smiles, most of what makes up this film are exercises in cynical shock humor.
Rotten Tomatoes has not given this movie any positive reviews; nevertheless, McCarthy shines in her performance which shows her increased sense of independence as an actress.
McCarthy’s next project, an ambitious sci-fi thriller called The Kitchen, could prove equally rewarding or disappointing; nonetheless, she remains determined to do whatever is necessary to bring this visionary film to life.
One of the worst films McCarthy has made with husband Ben Falcone is this one, an overly cheesy comedy-drama with an even cheesier premise, though McCarthy stands out in her performances here despite occasionally losing its way. Maya Rudolph always gives an enjoyable performance as well in her supporting role despite a limited script. Furthermore, this movie makes no effort whatsoever to take a stand against misogyny or other forms of oppression – it seems like an opportunity missed here.
Melissa McCarthy in Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018)
McCarthy first made her mark as part of The Groundlings sketch comedy troupe before she gained notoriety with roles on Gilmore Girls and movie bit parts before landing Mike & Molly and its Emmy-nominated sequel Mike & Molly 2. At six feet one inch tall and over 100 pounds in weight, McCarthy proved herself worthy as one of Hollywood’s most beloved comedic actresses.
In 2015, she made her film debut alongside Kristen Wiig in Paul Feig’s spy spoof Spy and its sequel Ghostbusters as one of its female protagonists, joining Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones, and Kate McKinnon in both films. Additionally, she showed her acting chops once more by earning both Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for her performance in Can You Ever Forgive Me? based on Lee Israel’s memoir on forging letters from literary greats.
McCarthy excels at playing Israel as a lonely New Yorker hoping for change; she’s joined by an exceptional cast including Richard E. Grant as her partner-in-crime.
McCarthy found critical success after her performance in Can You Ever Forgive Me and soon teamed back up with Marielle Heller for another 2021 thriller, The Kitchen. In that role, she led an all-female cast as mob wives who take over the criminal operations of mob husbands in 1970s Manhattan. Following this she appeared as one of Thunder Force’s superheroes with an irresistibly seductive alter ego and in The Starling (Netflix drama) where she plays a mother grieving the death of her child.
McCarthy hasn’t had any disastrous movies lately, yet she may be losing some of her comedic shine as she appears in films that don’t make use of her talents. St. Vincent and The Happytime Murders both highlight her skills, yet this family effort directed by Ben Falcone doesn’t know what it’s doing with its star.