Like a Boss (2020) Review
A THINLY WRITTEN AND FORMULAIC COMEDY
Over the years, comedy motion pictures have had a different of varieties of platforms in undertaking a comedic (laugh-out-loud) storytelling within the guise of theatrical presentation. While this form of genre storytelling has often followed the antics and tomfoolery of male centric protagonist characters (more often that not), the female oriented endeavors have been around and starting to make a comeback to today’s audience of moviegoers. Movies like Legally Blonde, Bridesmaid, Pitch Perfect, Easy A, Girls Trip, Booksmart have offered up plenty of laughs and comedic gags through their narratives, but sometimes dug deeper than raunchy / comedy jokes; depicting friendships, hardships, teamwork, and acceptance of others and themselves. Now, Paramount Pictures and director Miguel Arteta present the latest female comedy project with the release of Like a Boss. Does the film prove that it’s “the boss” or does it fail to impress?
Growing up together as best friends for nearly 20 years, Mia Carter (Tiffany Haddish) and Mel Paige (Rose Byrne), with the pair developing their own makeup line in college, working to take their brand to the big time with the opening of their own store, with Sydney (Jennifer Coolidge) and Barrett (Billy Porter) as their devoted employees. With the two being roommates who share everything, Mia and Mel are close, but when it comes to the financial reality of their business, which is in a massive half-million-dollar debt, threating to destroy their dream. Coming to save the day is Claire Luna (Salma Hayek), the head of Oviedo, a cosmetic empire brand name, who wants to majority stake in Mia and Mel’s company in exchange to pay of their debt and fresh ideas for their low-selling offerings. While Mel is ready to accept such a great opportunity deal, Mia is hesitant to trust Claire, who’s a business shark when it comes to the management of her acquisitions, ready to make life miserable for the pair and testing the friendship of both Mia and Mel.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
In amidst my favorite genres of action, fantasy, and animated, I always enjoy a good comedy movie. However, the varying degrees of comedy (i. e everyone has a different “funny bone”) have cast a very wide and diverse genre range for these endeavors….at least I think so. So, of course, there are certain types of comedy films that I like, which is mostly the raunchy R-rated ones as well as some of the slapstick ones as well. As I’ve mentioned above, there has been quite a number of male focused comedy features, but female focused ones have been produced and have slowly been on the rise for the past couple of years. That’s not to say that they haven’t been there, with Hollywood certainly creating some memorable ones in the year’s past, but the recent focus has indeed been a welcomed one, with some of personal favorites of these types of movies have included Bridesmaids, Girls Trip, and Booksmart. To me, these films have showcased a great deal of humor and heart and presented a narrative that has plenty of laughs as well as dramatic bits that have some wholesome ideals, including friendship.
This brings me back around to talking about Like a Boss, the latest women focused comedy feature of this offering. Personally, I really didn’t hear much “buzz” about this movie when it was first announced, so it wasn’t really “on my radar” to see. However, when the film’s movie trailer got released (i.e September 2019), I got interested in seeing the movie. Judging from the trailer, the movie’s premised looked quite simple and familiar (problem that I’ll go into detail below), but did like the film’s main trio (i.e Haddish, Byrnes, and Hayek). All have been proven talents in various projects and seemed like a good trio of main characters to play around with in a movie like this. Plus, almost every time I went to the movies, I kept on seeing the preview for Like a Boss (literally almost every PG-13 movie and above), so the film was almost imprinted in my memory. So, when it came time to its’ theatrical release, I decided to give the movie a try and went to see Like a Boss a week after its release. What did I think of it? Well, it was more disappointing than entertaining. While there were some moments that did work, Like a Boss just feels like shallow and generically made comedic motion picture that gets hampered with formulaic presentation that has a whole lot of “been there, done that” vibe. It’s not a terrible movie, but gets heavily weighed down by its thin premise and “paint by numbers” story progression.
Like a Boss is directed by Miguel Arteta, whose previous directorial works includes such films as Beatriz at Dinner, Duck Butter, and Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, Given his variety of directorial projects, including directing several episodes of various TV series, Arteta approaches Like a Boss with a sense of familiarity, which sort of acts like a “double edge” sword (more on that below). Suffice to say that Arteta makes the film approachable and should be at least taking for it’s “face value” type of viewing experience. Whether that’s a good thing or bad thing will depend on the viewer. There is a decent amount of raunchy comedy bits that are sprinkled throughout the movie, which will give viewers a good chuckle here and there, but it’s just not enough. Still, Arteta makes the effort and creates a film that has plenty of heart within its comedic storytelling. What do I mean? At the heart of Like a Boss, the movie’s theme is about the friendship between Mia and Mel and the struggles that they must undergo of that relationship when getting into business with Claire Luna. Naturally, it’s not as super deep drama moments (as to be expected), but it’s a good fundamental to utilize in the movie and certainly is carried throughout the film’s narrative. Additionally, the movie definitely has a breezy runtime; clocking in at around 83 minutes long (one hour and twenty-three minutes) and keeps its story centrally focused on the task at hand (the main plot) and doesn’t go too much tangents of unnecessary side stories.
In my customary presentation paragraph, Like a Boss shapes up to be a solid comedy movie, with the feature sort of meeting the “industry standards” for a project like this. However, this means that the movie’s background setting and other various aesthetics / nuances are average and don’t really stand out as memorable piece to the film’s overall likeability. So….I guess it kind of breaks even as the technical presentation is okay, but not terrible. That being said, with the film focusing heavily on make-up and fashion, the creative work of Sekinah Brown (costume designer) and the entire make-up team (too many to be named) did a good job in the movie and certainly aided in the film’s various characters (visually). Everything else, however, was just “met standards” in my book….no more, no less.
Unfortunately, Like a Boss fails to deliver cinematic impact on its premise and overall presentation; coming up short in a lot of areas with glaring criticisms. What do I mean? Well, for starters (and probably the biggest negative point), the movie just feels generic to the touch, with a lot of recycled beats throughout. From start to finish, the film just screams predictably and whole “been there, done that” type of vibe that permeates the feature in its entirety. Even the movie’s premise, which is quite fun and has potential, doesn’t really go anywhere “outside the lines” and simply plays its safe throughout. This extends to Arteta’s overall direction for the film, which doesn’t take any creative or innovated risk on this project; padding the feature with trademark comedic nuances and formulaic storytelling elements that have been proven to work in the past. In Like a Boss, however, they don’t and its painfully obvious throughout the movie. Thus, Arteta just projects a “paint by numbers” navigation in the movie’s shaping and the results in a formulaic and predictable narrative for the feature to spin, with little to no surprise thrown into the mix. Some might like it (as mindless fun), but there’s nothing that really stands out the movie’s story in a fun creative way or has been done better in similar projects.
This also leads to another big problem with the film’s marketing campaign (i.e the movie trailer) sort of spoiling most of the movie. In truth, Like a Boss certainly lacks substance within its undertaking and the film’s trailer, while highlighting the feature’s premise, certainly pretty much the whole main central conflict of the movie’s narrative. Why is that so bad? Well, it pretty much showed too much and rendered the actual events in the movie on a moot point, with little fanfare to when they actual happen. This, along with the film’s formulaic progression beats, weighs the film down and can’t figure out what it wants to be…. on its own terms. Basically, Like a Boss is a messy / shallow film that lacks depth and relies too heavily on a proven predictable formula. Plus, it also doesn’t help that the movie’s script, which was penned by Sam Pitman, Adam Cole-Kelly with a story by Danielle Sanchez-Witzel (along with Cole-Kelly and Pitman) lacks a certain sharpness. Even at the film’s higher points, most of the written dialogue and story-oriented events seem lackluster, with a whole familiar tone that permeates throughout the movie’s entirety (and not in a good way). Plus, the dialogue is mostly mediocre is only elevated by the acting talents involved (more on that below). This also extends to the various comedic beats on the film; finding comedic dialogue “punch line” moments to be dull and flat and only salvageable (or even humorous elevated) by the talents involved.
To me, my biggest gripe is that the movie is just missing something. As I mentioned, Like a Boss has a really short runtime and, while that might be a positive for many reasons. However, I kind of feel that there’s something missing in the film’s narrative. Like….as if there was entire scene or two or characters or some type of sequences of events that was eliminated from the feature’s final cut; leaving a gapping hole in the movie’s narrative. As I said, the scant runtime is welcomed, but this also leaves a lot to be desired or mainly something missing. This, of course, makes the feature feel like something was cut and left on the editing floor as the final cut of Like a Boss lacks something. I just can’t quite put my finger on it, but its immediately apparent that the movie needs more!
The cast in Like a Boss is small, but generally recognizable from their previous works; finding the selection of acting talents suitable for a project like this. However, their relative “star power” screen presence of past endeavors is the only thing that carries them in the movie, with many of the cast wasted on the film with such bland and cookie cutter caricatures that they play. This is most apparent in the movie’s headline trio of best friends Mia Carter and Mel Paige and ruthless cosmetic business mogul Claire Luna, who are played by actresses Tiffany Haddish, Rose Byrne, and Salma Hayek respectfully. Haddish, known for her roles in Girls Trip, The Kitchen, and Night School, and Byrne, known for her roles in Bridesmaids, Spy, and Neighbors, definitely work fine as comedic lead duo and definitely play off each other well. However, the never quite nail the chemistry of other lead parings in better R-rated comedy endeavors of the past. Both actresses have shown that they have a certain “knack” for R-rated comedy features, but Like a Boss doesn’t let either Haddish or Byrne play to their strengths in that arena; rendering their characters of Mia and Mel generic to the touch. Of course, there are moments of where the comedy talents shine (i.e Haddish says a Pokémon joke), but those are few and far between. So, while they understand the characters in the movie (nailing some of the more emotional friendship beats), Haddish and Byrne are just underutilized in the movie. Hayek, known for her roles in Frida, Desperado, and Savages, seems to be having blast in the Claire Luna; projecting an over-the-top business tycoon that has “fierce” as she is superfluously beautiful. Of course, the role of Claire Luna, much like the rest of the cast, is written pretty thin and doesn’t really amount to anything beyond the initial antagonist-ish setup that’s given to her. Thus, despite Hayek chewing through the dialogue, the character of Claire Luna is just a flat and generic baddie….in high heels.
The majority of the larger supporting cast players, including actress Jennifer Coolidge (Legally Blonde and American Pie) as Sydney (Mia and Mel’s co-worker), actor Billy Porter (Pose and American Horror Story) as Barrett, Mia and Mel’s cosmetic ingredient maker employee, and actor Karan Soni (Office Christmas Party and Deadpool) give what they can in their respective roles, but (ultimately) fail to deliver humorous / memorable characters in Like a Boss. There are a few moments that work (where there acting / screen presence shows), but even these trio of talents can’t elevate nor save their characters in the movie from being unoriginal and generic.
The rest of the cast, including actors Ryan Hansen (Veronica Mars and Friday the 13th) and Jimmy O. Yang (Crazy Rich Asians and Patriots Day) as Greg and Ron, two owner of a straight men’s cosmetic brand that gains attention from Claire Luna, and actresses Ari Graynor (Whip It and The Disaster Artist), actress Natasha Rothwell (Insecure and Love, Simon), actress Jessica St. Clair (American Housewife and Bridesmaid) as Angela, Jill, and Kim, Mia and Mel’s successful friends, make up the remaining characters in the movie. Unfortunately, most of these characters (minor ones at that) don’t offer much to the story, which is a shame as they all (both acting talents and character themselves) have the potential to become memorable. However, much like this movie in general, they are rendered flat and forgettable throwaways.
Best friends Mia and Mel go into business with cosmetic mogul Claire Luna; testing their business and friendship during this transition in the movie Like a Boss. Director Miguel Arteta’s latest film takes female oriented comedy story angle and presents a movie that toils around the idea of R-rated raunchiness as well as heart. Despite a few comedic bits (that do work sometimes) and endearing premise of friendship, the movie doesn’t break away and rise above the middling comedy routine; disappointingly muddling its opportunity with a generic narrative, uninspiring storytelling (missing plot chunks), flat caricatures of its characters, and a highly talented cast that feels wasted on the film. Personally, this movie was ultimately mediocre. Sure, there a few parts that I laughed at and I did like a lot of the film’s cast, but nothing about the movie is memorably nor original in any shape or form, which is disappointing aspect about it. Thus, my recommendation for this movie is a definite “skip it” as it’s best to just watch another film / TV project that stars these acting talents (i.e Girls Trip, Spy, Frida, Office Christmas Party, Legally Blonde, Pose, etc). If interested to see the movie (a sort of “girl night out” offering), just wait a year or so until it comes to TV (it will probably be on one of these cable channels by 2021). In the end, Like a Boss does produce a few laughs and a good moral lesson of friendship, but is just lackluster to the touch and ultimately forgettable. Plain and simple!
2.3 Out of 5 (Skip It)
Released On: January 10th, 2020
Reviewed On: January 17th, 2020
Like a Boss is 83 minutes long and is rated R for language, crude sexual material, and drug use