A film review by Craig J. Koban April 30, 2020



2020, R, 83 mins.

Tiffany Haddish as Mia  /  Rose Byrne as Mel Carter  /  Salma Hayek as Claire Luna  /  Billy Porter as Barrett

Directed by Miguel Arteta  /  Written by Sam Pitman and Adam Cole-Kelly

If LIKE A BOSS were any less of a movie then we'd barely have anything to actually project on a cinema screen.  Very few workplace comedies are as punishingly awful as this.  It's as disastrously unfunny of a starring vehicle for the trio of Tiffany Haddish, Rose Byrne, and Salma Hayek if there ever was one.  

Equally head scratching is that this piece of disposable trash was directed by the very competent Miguel Arteta, who previously made a quite hilarious - and quite underrated - comedy in CEDAR RAPIDS.  Beyond his absolute failure of finding some tonal cohesion to the underlining material (made up of a highly disinteresting premise), one has to wonder why a comedy like this - with potentially strong themes of female empowerment on the job - was written and directed by men?  Odd creative choices aside, not a hell of a lot in LIKE A BOSS makes any sense whatsoever; this film is a comedic black hole that sucks in people in front of and behind the camera into its abysmal vortex. 

To be fair, Haddish and Byrne give it their respective all with this mediocre and crass material.  They star as 20 year BFFs in Mia and Mel, both of whom have pooled their friendship and unique cosmetics know-how into their own business, but one that's financially failing and on the verge of collapse (of course, this film's D-grade sitcom worthy scripting ensures that only one of them is aware of such monetary hardships, which is odd seeing as they are both equal partners).  Their employees in Sydney (Jennifer Coolidge) and Barrett (Billy Porter) are oblivious to this as well (all witless comedies like this require a quirky gay stereotype character written on pure autopilot, with Barrett being no exception).  Anyhoo', Mel and Mia are as thick as thieves, but the prospects of their passion project cosmetics business folding haunts them to no end.   



Fate, as it always does, swoops in with the appearance of Claire (Hayek), who owns and operates her own vast cosmetics empire that eats up small businesses and chews them out in her quest for a global monopoly.  She asks Mel and Mia to come to a meeting with her, which they happily do, during which time Claire offers to purchase their business with a majority ownership in mind.  Of course, Mel jumps at such prospects, born mostly out of cash desperation.  Mia, however, is not convinced and smells something afoul with the superficially kind Claire.  After much finagling, Mel convinces Mia that they need this, and both agree to Claire's terms.  Soon afterwards, though, it appears that Claire doesn't want to just passively sit back with her stake in the company: she wants to steal the pair's ideas, pass them off as her own, and then thoroughly destroy their small company and, in the process, eradicate their friendship.   

Film critic Roger Ebert once described "The Idiot Plot Syndrome" as "a plot which is kept in motion solely by the virtue of the fact that everybody involved is an idiot."  This sums up LIKE A BOSS perfectly.  This film wants to paint a rosy and uplifting picture of independent minded and determined female characters, but ironically shows the two main entrepreneur "heroes" as imbeciles.  Any one with a pulse and a modicum of common sense would be able to smell Claire's BS proposal from a proverbial mile away, but Mia and Mel seem out of touch to this (well, mostly Mel) and decide to hastily partner up with this corporate shark.  Now, I'm assuming that there's some level of smarts involved with running a business, but Mia and Mel are portrayed as eager, yet hopelessly clueless businesswomen.  Equally stupid is how being half a million dollars in the hole has been kept as secret from Mia and her staff all this time by Mel.  Do business partners not maintain basic levels of communication?  Do they not both scrutinize the books evenly between themselves?  Only in the Idiot Plot driven world of this movie is this narrative kept rolling. 

Matters are not helped either by Hayek's performance and the writing of her character.  It doesn't take a fortune teller to foresee that Claire - originally shown as a considerate savior of Mel and Mia's struggling business - will be revealed to be a cartoonishly two-faced double crosser that cares little about anyone's future or well being beyond her own.  This is shallow, paint-by-numbers scripting, and Hayek plays her with virtually no depth, no nuance, and no psychological complexity.  Sporting a horrible wig and a frothing at the mouth level of vindictiveness, Claire here is such an empty vessel, one-note baddie here that you have to wonder - outside of a sizeable payday - why the Oscar nominated actress would ever bother here.  Imagine Meryl Streep's glamour queen mogul in THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA, but utterly stripped down to the most painfully contrived black and white characteristics and you kind of have Claire here.  What...a...waste. 

All we are left to care about are Mel and Mia and their plight, but LIKE A BOSS' bonkers and hackneyed storytelling makes it awfully hard to give a damn about them.  Now, the prospects of watching Haddish and Byrne play off of one another has some initial promise (and both have proven in previous films that they definitely can be riotously funny), but this film never makes a case for allowing us to believe in them as real flesh and blood characters.  Mel and Mia are just dense props being thrown headfirst into this film's awkward marriage of slapstick, hard edged raunch, and, worst of all, mismanaged sentimentality about the power of friendship and sisterhood to overcome all obstacles.  There's nothing inherently wrong with a female centric and lewd R-rated comedy, but this one never has its fingers firmly on the pulse of what it's trying to be.  There's ample F-bomb riddled shenanigans and pratfalls galore here, but this film wants to have its cake and eat it too by becoming sanctimoniously sugar coated in its final act by showing its characters reconciling their differences and coming together in a state of blissful harmony.  LIKE A BOSS wants to be a vulgar comedy of manners and a sensitively portrayed tale of savvy feminism and lifelong friendship.  It utterly fails in both respects.   

And the worst sin perpetrated here is that LIKE A BOSS is simply devoid of laughs.  It's a desperate comic dead zone (speaking of desperate, a midway scene involving Mel secretly placing ultra hot peppers into Mia's meal, leading to a moment of would-be hysterical body function humor, pathetically feels like the stale leftovers from a nauseatingly lame comedy from twenty years ago).  It's fundamentally sad to see Haddish, Byrne and Hayek slum their way through mindless drivel like this.  I have nothing against all female comedies (we most surely need more of them) or the performers assembled here.  But the final product in LIKE A BOSS felt like it was barely worthy of a direct to VOD release, let alone a major theatrical release way back in January.  

You can watch this for six bucks on iTunes right now.  

That's six bucks too much. 

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