[Screen It]


(2020) (Tiffany Haddish, Rose Byrne) (R)

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Comedy: Two lifelong best friends sell their small, independent makeup business to a global brand and live to regret it.
Mia (TIFFANY HADDISH) and Mel (ROSE BYRNE) are lifelong best friends, who started a small cosmetics business that operates both a brick-and-mortar storefront and an e-commerce website. Mia is the creative force behind the business, who's come up with various products and promotions. Mel is the more sensible one, who handles the accounting and business side. They have two employees, Barrett (BILLY PORTER) and Sydney (JENNIFER COOLIDGE), and have a lot of fun day in and day out.

Unfortunately, their business is $500,000 in debt and could go under in six months if they don't turn it around. Enter Claire (SALMA HAYEK), a cosmetics industry tycoon who wants to acquire their small company. Mel and Mia negotiate hard, and Claire accepts 49 percent of their company. But she puts a clause in the contract that if Mel or Mia quit the firm, she will get a controlling stake of 51 percent. So, she and her loyal assistant (KARAN SONI) plot to drive a wedge between the two best friends.

Fortunately for them, Mel and Mia have differing definitions of success. They also have three close female friends Kim, Angela, and Jill (ARI GRAYNOR, JESSICA ST. CLAIR, and NATASHA ROTHWELL) who appear to have all of the things they lack -- wealth, husbands, and babies. At the same time, Claire has acquired a rival small cosmetics firm run by two men named Greg and Rob (RYAN HANSEN and JIMMY O. YANG) who she also pits against Mel and Mia.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
The longer the new comedy "Like a Boss" played out on the big screen, the more I started to realize that this particular story would have been better served as a light drama than a raunchy yuck-fest. The laughs in this film are forced, crass, and smutty. Every time the flick started to actually say something interesting and worthwhile about friendship, following one's bliss, and female empowerment, it erased such good and noble intentions in favor of the next penis, pot, or spit-up gag.

Tiffany Haddish of "Girl's Trip" and Rose Byrne of "Bridesmaids" star as Mia and Mel, respectively, best friends since middle school who now own a small makeup company. The two thirty-somethings are living out their dream. Unfortunately, they are both a nightmare at business, are half a million dollars in debt, and on the brink of closing up shop permanently. Enter Claire Luna (Salma Hayek), a cosmetics tycoon who sees great potential in some of the ladies' products and offers to erase their debt and invest in their business. She wants 51 percent ownership. When Mel and Mia won't budge on losing operational control, she draws up a contract that makes her a minority-share owner but only as long as Mia and Mel stay involved in the firm and one doesn't quit. Of course, she actively plots to turn the two besties against each other.

It's a fun concept. And there are moments that do draw the audience in, like when we learn that Mel's mother was a drug addict and Mia and her mom took her in as a teenager when she had nowhere else to go. Haddish and Byrne form a surprisingly solid bond here. They have real chemistry.

But the film has no faith that moviegoers will watch this flick without dumb, broad, trailer-ready humor. So, they have the characters say and do things that no one as intelligent as they ostensibly are would do. Things like smoking pot in a baby's nursery and posing the infant with the marijuana cigarette. Scenes like Mia talking in graphic detail about the sex dream she had the previous night about her and former President Obama hooking up in a hotel room. Decisions like Mel sabotaging Mia's Mexican dinner with too many jalapeno peppers and watching her gag, vomit, and spit up milk all over another woman.

And the film has a tiresome structure throughout. We get two or three scenes in a row of Mia and Mel bonding or bickering, followed by the two attending some movie-fantasy, swank get-together in and around Atlanta. In one 83-minute movie, the two friends attend a lavish baby shower at a friend's mansion; karaoke night at a drag bar; a downtown Atlanta birthday party for Mia's much younger boy toy full of Millennials and Gen Z'ers; a Mexican-themed dinner party at another friend's mansion; Claire Luna's "Beauty & Bubbles" champagne party; and, finally, Claire's huge, DJ-hosted, product launch party spectacle. It's all very forced.

Haddish is still great with an in-your-face one-liner here and there, and Byrne is solid as her more straight-laced straight woman. Jennifer Coolidge from the "American Pie" movies is daffy as always. And Broadway star Billy Porter is a comic vacuum in every scene he is in. But Hayek is just ghastly as Claire, with the script and everything about her look here doing her no favors. And don't search for anyone resembling a strong, decent male in the film. Much is made of Mia and Mel's mothers. No mention is made of their fathers. You never see the husbands of Mia and Mel's three, settled-down college friends who come in and out of the flick. And both Mia and Mel seem to accept that they can only be successful doing one thing at a time, so they've chosen business over marriage and family.

"Like a Boss" wears out its welcome long before the end credits roll, even before the ladies get their inevitable chance at revenge against Claire. I never really cared. No, really. I'm not even sure if I was supposed to pull for Mel and Mia to have not gone into business with Claire and instead lost their company to mismanagement or to have taken Claire's buyout offer and lived wealthy, but under her thumb. Just as the characters have to deal with missed opportunities throughout the movie, so too did I the viewer and reviewer in watching this. I give it a 4 out of 10. (Teddy Durgin)

Reviewed January 8, 2020 / Posted January 10, 2020

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