Once upon a time, Hollywood studio comedies were a force to be reckoned with. A time when geniuses like Billy Wilder looked the stuffy Hays Code in the eye and said, “challenge accepted.” A time when humankind had not yet made it to the moon. Long story short, it was a long time ago, and never does that bygone era feel as distant as it does when seeing the contemporary counterparts of this once mighty breed. Every now and then there are glimmers of hope, pleasant surprises like Game Night and Blockers. But genuinely funny films like these ones are the exceptions that prove the rule, and the general rule of Hollywood studio comedies in our current age makes me want to weep or stick my hand into a blender just to feel something. Perhaps both simultaneously.
With that context in mind, the beauty-themed buddy comedy Like A Boss is above average, relative to the competition. Considering the competition, this hardly qualifies as a compliment. This merely indicates that it could have been worse. It also could have been much better. There are glimmers of a missed potential throughout—a movie where all 83 minutes live up to the promise of the playful banter present in the first five could have been genuinely enjoyable. The premise—childhood best friends and business partners Mia (Tiffany Haddish) and Mel (Rose Byrne) find their personal and professional relationship tested when cosmetics magnate Claire Luna (Selma Hayek) takes an interest in their financially struggling beauty company—is familiar, at best. Every beat unfolds on a glazy-eyed autopilot, but one cannot find fault with the cast, who elevate this stale saltine cracker of a script into something a good deal more palatable than it really deserves to be. With their impeccable comedic timing and easy comradery, Haddish and Byrne often manage to make something at least vaguely tolerable out of pretty much nothing.
Like A Boss was never going to be a masterpiece, but with lively dialogue and a sharp comedic edge, it could have been commendable entertainment. And, as mentioned, the first few minutes actually show a glimmer of hope before disappearing into a sea of limp mediocrity for most of the remaining runtime. Occasionally a spark of life returns for the span of a brief exchange, a clever line, before disappearing into the deep again. The screenplay from Sam Pitman and Adam Cole-Kelly, from a story that for some inexplicable reason required a third participant, Danielle Sanchez-Witzel, plays out like an overconfident couch potato attempting to run a marathon with absolutely no preparation. It bursts strong out of the gate, over-exerts itself, and spends the rest of the time limping towards the finish line, interspersed with the occasional, short-lived burst of desperate energy.
If you’re hankering for the cinematic experience of staring up at a big screen in a large, dark room while munching on popcorn smothered with whatever movie theater “butter” really is (I remain willfully ignorant on this front), and have seen everything else out vaguely worth seeing, Like a Boss will do in a pinch. But those are about the only circumstances under which I can recommend it. Otherwise, you’re best off avoiding this depressingly standard January dump flick and letting it fade quietly into the obscurity to which it is destined.
Image sources (in order of posting): Eli Joshua Ade, Paramount Pictures