like a boss review

Rose Byrne and Tiffany Haddish are both proven supporting players in raunchy R-rated comedies whose charisma is so strong, whose timing is so sharp, and whose deliveries are so hilarious that they have frequently threatened to upstage their leads. Byrne has played all manner of comedy wife or snobby socialite, while there isn’t an outrageous BFF that Haddish hasn’t been called up for. So put two and two together, and it sounds like you’ve got a buddy-comedy pairing for the ages, right?

Not so much. While Byrne and Haddish both sparkle onscreen in Like A Boss, which gives them the rare chance to be the leads for once (or at least to not have their name billed second to Seth Rogen or Kevin Smith), but they are ill-served by a generic workplace comedy movie.

Directed by Miguel Arteta from a script by Sam Pitman and Adam Cole-KellyLike a Boss follows two best friends who have been inseparable since elementary school: Mia Carter (Haddish), the brash and confident creative who is an bottomless well of good and bad ideas, and Mel Paige (Byrne), an insecure businesswoman from a broken home who was taken in by Mia’s family. The two of them co-own Mia & Mel’s, a cosmetic company that they built from the ground up and run with two colorful employees (Billy Porter, hilariously elastic, and Jennifer Coolidge, doing an expression-less imitation of her character from Legally Blonde).

While Mia and Mel are happy living their humble businessowner lives, including rooming together well into their 40s, but condescending friends and a mounting debt has made Mel anxious. So when Salma Hayek‘s cosmetic mogul Claire Luna swoops in with a deal that will save their business, Mel is eager to take her up on it, despite Mia’s concerns about selling out. Little do they know that Claire Luna isn’t the women-supporting feminist that she purports to be, but a ruthless businesswoman who is out to break up Mia and Mel’s partnership and steal their ideas.

Like a Boss is a rather generic workplace comedy merged with a surprisingly tender buddy-comedy. But while the dynamic between Haddish and Byrne is sweet and genuine — the pair became real-life BFFs after shooting the movie — the workplace antics leave much to be desired. The film’s lukewarm shenanigans are barely outrageous enough to warrant its R-rating, which it only makes use of with a few f-bombs, and even the most showy scene — in which Mel sabotages Mia’s meal by adding a huge slice of ghost pepper — is barely salvaged by a committed Haddish, who gets little more to do than energetically choke and spit goat milk in someone’s face. Like a Boss doesn’t reach the heights of the slapstick comedy that Byrne and Haddish showed themselves capable of in Bridesmaids or Girls Night, two movies which the film is clearly trying to emulate. But it’s a watered down imitation of both superior films, with a script that is in severe need of punching up. A few lines earn a chuckle if you haven’t seen the trailer, but the film goes surprisingly without laughs for long stretches of time.

It would be fine if Haddish and Byrne had a strong enough villain in Hayek, who swans into every scene like some reject from the Pirates of the Caribbean theme park ride. With a bright orange wig and gaudy, tight-fitting dresses to match, Hayek is like a character from the first draft of Like a Boss — big, over-the-top, cartoonish, and super out of place with the more introspective movie about female friendship that Like a Boss turns out to be.

There are glimpses of a deeper film about adult female friendship in Like a Boss, in the Girls-like moments of codependence that Haddish and Byrne effortlessly show and in the fracturing of their relationship after Claire Luna has sowed discord into their friendship. And the film is aware of this, though its wrap-up of this arc veers a little on the sentimental side. But when Like a Boss highlights the dynamic between Haddish and Byrne while throwing in a few shocking jokes about female sexuality, it becomes the perfect merger.

The problem with Like a Boss is that it spends so much time being a pale imitation of other female-led comedies that it overlooks what makes the film work: Haddish and Byrne. If you just let them riff, let them live together and let the cameras roll, you would get an infinitely better movie than the middling workplace comedy that Like a Boss turns out to be.

/Film Rating: 5.5 out of 10

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