If “Like a Boss” had a decent screenplay, and was competently directed, it might have been pretty good. Bear with me; I realize I just said that if paper was actually lettuce, it might make a tasty salad. But it isn’t, and “Like a Boss” isn’t; nonetheless, this messy movie gives a sense of the fun we might have had. Because when you gather Tiffany Haddish (“Girls Trip”), Rose Byrne (“Bridesmaids”) and Salma Hayek (who proved on “30 Rock” some years back that she’s hilarious), you are going to laugh. I did laugh during “Like a Boss,” several times, which automatically makes it far from the worst buried-in-January studio comedy I’ve seen. But it should have been so much better.
Essentially, what we have here is a female buddy comedy/workplace comedy, with a heavy sprinkling of raunch. Mia (Haddish) and Mel (Byrne) are lifelong best friends who run a small cosmetics company together; they are, as all movie best friends are required to be, very different from each other. Enter Claire Luna (Hayek), a celebrity cosmetics entrepreneur who’s interested in acquiring their company. Mia’s skeptical, Mel’s intrigued, and off we go on a story that has the two friends fighting, making up, fighting, making up, Jennifer Coolidge saying random sexual things, fighting, making up … and I’ll give the filmmakers credit for, having realized the movie was out of steam pretty early, wrapping all this nonsense up in a tidy 83 minutes.
Nonetheless, the fast-talking Haddish and soft-spoken Byrne make an appealing comedy team — and a believable pair of devoted besties. Hayek, tottering around on insanely high heels and wielding a golf club for no particular reason (probably because it’s just a funny visual), is a kick. And Billy Porter, as Mia and Mel’s long-suffering employee, steals the movie in a restaurant scene after the women have reluctantly, on Claire’s orders, fired him. “Witness My Tragic Moment,” he says — you can hear the initial capitals — and slowly and dramatically leaves the restaurant, slinking and posing and milking the exit for all it’s worth.
All deserve a much better movie than “Like a Boss”; may the new year bring them one, none too soon.
★★ “Like a Boss,” with Tiffany Haddish, Rose Byrne, Salma Hayek, Billy Porter, Jennifer Coolidge. Directed by Miguel Arteta, from a screenplay by Sam Pitman and Adam Cole-Kelly. 83 minutes. Rated R for language, crude sexual material and drug use. Opens Jan. 10 at multiple theaters.