The indicators had been as loud as klaxon horns, warning us that “Like a Boss” could be a stinker: the January launch date, the shoddy poster, the doubtful conceit (the sweetness enterprise is, uh, ugly). The director Miguel Arteta made his title with indie motion pictures like “Star Maps” and has fared properly with extra mainstream fare just like the affable comedy “Cedar Rapids.” But he wants a strong narrative body that may help his quiet strengths, notably the power to make a roomful of actors really feel as actual as your folks.
Too unhealthy that there’s nothing human or humorous about “Like a Boss,” and little that appears written (slightly than desperately spitballed) though at the very least Billy Porter will get a couple of minutes to point out that he can snap even a dud briefly to life. Once he exits it’s again to grim enterprise in a story about two longtime besties, Mia and Mel — the unpersuasively matched Tiffany Haddish and Rose Byrne — who reside, work and celebration as one. They brush their enamel in side-by-side sinks, drive to work in a beater, puff-puff-pass and benefit from the occasional hookups, although by no means, ahem, with one another.
The story wobbles into existence when Mia and Mel promote a stake of their struggling artisanal make-up firm to Claire Luna (Salma Hayek), a mercenary magnificence titan whose firm appears to be situated in a huge mall peopled by zombies. (I want!) Claire enters breasts first with an unpleasant dye job, ridiculously tottering heels and evil schemes, twirling a golf membership (the higher to totter threateningly) and trailed by a toadyish assistant (Karan Soni). She’s a cartoon of a feminine boss that implies, as soon as once more, that the boys working the film trade are significantly not down with women having a say.
Hayek is taking part in a noxious stereotype in a film that gleefully exploits stereotypes. Like a few of the different unfunny female-driven comedies, this one tries to show raunch into hilarity, yucks into yuks, but it surely’s onerous to chortle when a film treats girls with contempt. A novelty cake of a child’s head rising from a bloody vaginal opening sums up the juvenile humor; nearly as egregious is a bit constructed round Claire’s pronunciation of “fierce.” Making enjoyable of accents is chancy, however what makes this scene grate is that — like a lot of this film — the humor is situated in id. “Like a Boss” mocks her accent and turns her appears into a spectacle, decreasing her menace and energy.
It’s a bummer to see all this expertise so badly abused. It’s particularly disappointing on condition that the final film Arteta directed Hayek in was “Beatriz at Dinner” (2017), a fierce political comedy about haves and have-nots written by Mike White, who, sadly, is M.I.A. here. There’s no comparable sense of ethics or political awareness in “Like a Boss,” which peddles toothless sisterhood while operating from the premise that there’s something inherently funny about women cursing, having sex and getting stoned, you know, acting like (stereotyped) dudes. The reality that women are as human as men — have the same complexities, habits and feels — seems beyond this crew.
It’s always hard to know who to blame for a mess like this, though everyone deserves some, including the writers Sam Pitman and Adam Cole-Kelly. Throw in the executives who bought the pitch in an auction and then motored ahead, and the handlers who persuaded Haddish, Hayek and Byrne to join in. Actors make lousy choices all the time and if “Like a Boss” makes money no one will care that it’s formulaic, unfunny, choppy, insults women and seems to be missing much of its middle. Money is the great leveler in the industry, absolving all sins, including creative ones. In the end, the funniest thing here is the name of the production company, Artists First. It’s also the saddest.
Like a Boss
Rated R for cursing and booty calls, blah blah blah. Running time: 1 hour 23 minutes.