The signs were as boisterous as klaxon horns, warning us that “Like a Boss” would be a stinker: the January release date, the terrible blurb, the questionable vanity (the beauty business is, uh, monstrous). The executive Miguel Arteta made his name with non-mainstream movies like “Star Maps” and has fared well with more mainstream fare like the affable satire “Cedar Rapids.” But he needs a strong narrative frame that can bolster his calm qualities, notably the ability to make a roomful of actors feel as real as your companions.
Really awful that there’s not all that much or interesting about “Like a Boss,” and little that appears to be composed (rather than desperately spitballed) although at least Billy Porter gets a couple of moments to show that he can snap even a failure quickly to life. When he leaves it’s back to dismal business in an anecdote about two long-lasting besties, Mia and Mel — the unpersuasively matched Tiffany Haddish and Rose Byrne — who live, work and party as one. They brush their teeth in next to each other sinks, drive to work in a beater, puff-puff-pass and appreciate the occasional hookups, however never, ahem, with each other.
The story wobbles into reality when Mia and Mel sell a stake in their battling artisanal makeup company to Claire Luna (Salma Hayek), a mercenary beauty titan whose company is by all accounts located in a vast mall inhabited by zombies. (I wish!) Claire enters breasts first with an appalling colorwork, incredibly tottering heels, and malice plans, spinning a golf club (the better to totter threateningly) and trailed by a toadyish assistant (Karan Soni). She’s a cartoon of a female boss that proposes, by and by, that the men running the movie business are genuinely not down with ladies having a say.
Hayek is playing a harmful generalization in a movie that merrily misuses generalizations. Like a portion of the other unfunny female-driven comedies, this one attempts to transform raunch into hilarity, yucks into yuks, however, it’s hard to laugh when a movie treats ladies with disdain. An oddity cake of a baby’s head rising up out of a wicked vaginal opening summarizes the adolescent silliness; almost as appalling is somewhat worked around Claire’s pronunciation of “furious.” Making fun of accents is chancy, yet what makes this scene great is that — like a lot of this movie — the cleverness is located in character. “Like a Boss” derides her accent and transforms her investigates a spectacle, decreasing her threat and force.
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