Cinematic Releases: Like a Boss (2020) - Reviewed

Like a Boss is a buddy comedy that should not work, but almost, kind of, does due to the two leads. The story is badly underdeveloped and the characters are all easy clich├ęs. The screenplay seems barely written; things happen with little buildup and the movie keeps getting distracted by other things. There is not enough going on to fill out its already short runtime. That said, the most important thing about a comedy is whether or not it is funny. I did laugh a decent amount. The majority of those laughs came from outside the central plot, mainly coming from the skills of the cast. Like A Boss is not good. Nevertheless, it has Tiffany Haddish and Rose Byrne who are both amusing despite not really having characters to play. They are not funny enough to save this, but the fact they come as close as they do is pretty impressive.

The story is very simple: two lifelong friends who run a makeup company together find their relationship tested when they get an offer from a wealthy businesswoman. Somehow, the movie does less with this setup than you would expect. It uses it as a way to introduce the characters, then spends most of its time on throwaway gags before going back to the plot for some forced tension heading into the contrived climax. It wants to be about the power of their friendship and, through their other friends, show that women can have close friendships and families while also having successful careers. However, it is more interested in weed jokes and Tiffany Haddish insulting people than on making those points well.

There is funny stuff there, yet Like a Boss struggles to build momentum because it rarely feels like anything is going on. Whenever it seems ready to go somewhere, it gets sidetracked by something unnecessary. That causes it to drag, as does the tendency to linger on reaction shots. This can be funny if the joke was good. Just not in nearly every scene. What makes up for it is that the unnecessary stuff is better than the plot.

The movie is carried by the chemistry between Haddish and Byrne. Haddish is the creative one, more unpredictable and prone to vulgar tirades. It is the type of role she usually plays, but there is slightly more love, slightly less caricature this time. Byrne is the responsible one, taking care of the business and her friend. Again, it is the type of person she has played before; nice and together on the outside, angry and panicking on the inside. They each lean into those traits, producing a surprisingly solid pairing. 

Salma Hayek is the makeup magnate who takes them under her wing. She mostly stays away from the fiery Latina stereotype, playing one of those rich people who says stuff that makes no sense, but gets taken seriously because she is rich. Even if it is more annoying than funny, it does lead to several good lines at her expense. Jennifer Coolidge, Billy Porter, Ari Graynor, Jessica St. Clair and Natasha Rothwell all add a few laughs in support. Still, your enjoyment will depend on how much you like the leads and if you can get past the weak structure and lack of purpose.

As Like a Boss went on, I kept going back and forth between being amused by the cast and being disinterested in everything else. It is funny and sort of sweet. It is also scattered, like it was messed with a lot in the editing room. This feels like a movie dumped into theaters in January because the studio did not have confidence in it. I do not blame them. If you are a fan of the cast, it might be worth a look, though you may want to wait until you can watch it at home while you do something else. I do not exactly recommend it, yet it is probably an okay choice for a distracted viewing.

--Ben Pivoz