THE BOSS (15) 99 mins. Stars Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Bell, Peter Dinklage, Ella Anderson, Tyler Labine and Kathy Bates.

MANY people would like to see their boss end up in prison.

But what if your former employer turned up on your doorstep after being released because they had nowhere else to go?

That's the starting point of The Boss. 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, albeit an egocentric businesswoman. She is forced to rebuild her life after a stint behind bars as a result of insider trading.

After five years inside, Michelle emerges without any friends to greet her. Former 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.

The Boss improves on its predecessor, the misfiring road movie Tammy, 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.

However, the characters aren't fully developed, some gags lack punchlines, and in the closing act, they risk a hostile takeover from mawkish sentiment.