Witness. Its. Tragic. Moment.
Funny ladies, bawdy zingers, lively co-stars, solid empowerment message, durable sisterhood themes: a Tiffany Haddish vehicle like this seems to check all the boxes. But boy, this strut-your-stuff girl’s comedy is a real stumble. Like a Boss is more of a loss, a missed opportunity that platforms all the right intentions in all the wrong ways. It’s not what you have, people, it’s what you do with it. You’d think a movie about make-up would know that already.
LIKE A BOSS ★★ (2/5 stars)
Directed by: Miguel Arteta
Written by: Sam Pitman, Adam Cole-Kelly, Danielle Sanchez-Witzel
Starring: Tiffany Haddish, Rose Byrne, Jennifer Coolidge, Natasha Rothwell, Billy Porter, Salma Hayek
Running time: 83 min
BFFs Mia Carter (Tiffany Haddish) and Mel Paige (Rose Byrne) have been tight through middle school, high school, college, and beyond, still-bachelorette roommates running their own company together as purveyors of facial products under the uninspired but effective label Mia&Mel. Mia’s the brassy-and-sassy creative force, mixing pigments and coming up with great marketing hooks. Mel is the organized but put-upon partner who does the accounting and keeps the showroom professional. Their oddly skeleton staff is Billy Porter and Jennifer Coolidge, who look mostly bored but affable.
“We’re not about painting it on,” they say. “We’re about letting it shine through.” Their big-hearted philosophy is geared towards enhancing their customer’s beauty, not tarting them up. The company’s bestseller is a single-use “One Night Stand Recovery Kit” that sells like hotcakes. No judgments, just rejuvenation.
Only hitch: Mia keeps giving “cute nerd discounts” to shy Homecoming teenagers and not caring so much about making money. And Mel doesn’t have the nerve to stand up to her. Which is a problem, when the company is $493,000 in debt.
A white knight comes in the form of Claire Luna (Salma Hayek), glamorous millionaire owner of global powerhouse Oviedo who walks on gold stiletto heels and swings a golf club with quiet menace. She sees potential in Mia&Mel, offering to pay off their debt and buy a 51% controlling interest. Mel is thrilled, Mia suspicious. They counter with 49%, and Claire agrees. But if either Mia or Mel quits, then Claire’s share goes up to 51%. Of course, Claire immediately schemes to break up their friendship.
Like a Boss ostensibly sets up a David-and-Goliath clash between a flaky but creative make-up boutique and a cosmetics empire. But the basic lack of insight into that dynamic is depressing, and it’s coupled with a clearly cartoonish understanding of the fashion industry. It feels like the screenwriters quickly skimmed a stack of Marie Claire back issues and thumbed through Business for Dummies, then ignored everything and figured they’d wing it.
Mia and Mel really let Mia&Mel run up $493,000 in debt? With only two employees? They clearly suck at business. Claire really thinks buying them is a good decision? She says she can turn them into a billion-dollar company. What? How? Why? Never mind, this comedy is dumb.
So sit back and enjoy the Oh-Snap Tiffany Haddish remarks about kicking people with her Payless BOGO’s. Revel in Rose Byrne’s uptight geekiness and skinny-white-girl dance moves. Watch as two straight-men competitors promote their “Get Hot” line of products that prey on women’s insecurities. And savor Billy Porter imperiously declare “Witness. My. Tragic. Moment” with clap-hand ferocity. Wait, did Salma Hayek just tell our heroines to “Step up your pussies”? Forget about zhuzhing it up: Like A Boss needs an extreme makeover.