Dir: Miguel Arteta. Starring: Tiffany Haddish, Rose Byrne, Jennifer Coolidge, Natasha Rothwell, Billy Porter, Salma Hayek. 15 cert, 83 mins
Like a Boss is another perfectly pleasant, mid-tier comedy doomed to be forgotten, if not for the fact it features the potential birth of the next great comedy duo: Tiffany Haddish and Rose Byrne. Every dream team – from Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, to Amy Poehler and Tina Fey – has found a way to weave together two different energies and find the harmony between them. Optimism meets cynicism, innocence meets bawdiness, and meekness meets confidence. Somehow it feels like they’ve always belonged together.
Haddish and Byrne play Mia and Mel, joint owners of a cosmetics brand that’s founded on the belief that makeup is about self-love and self-expression, not covering up flaws. Although their “One-Night Stand Kit” is a bestseller, Mia’s erratic approach to business deals (she loves to hand out “cute nerd” discounts) and Mel’s inability to confront her about it, has landed the pair in deep debt. A cosmetics mogul, Claire Luna, played by Salma Hayek arrives on the scene in a carrot-coloured wig and oversized teeth caps. She offers to wipe their debt in exchange for 49 per cent ownership of their company, with the caveat that she’ll get full control if one of them quits – cue an attempt to turn the pair against each other.
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Haddish and Byrne have no trouble selling us the idea that their characters have been friends since childhood, even if their personalities are worlds apart. The film lets them play to their strengths: Haddish revels in the same easy charm and party-girl buoyancy that made her an instant star in 2017’s Girls Trip; in fact, Paramount greenlit Like a Boss as a follow-up vehicle for the actor. Her face has a way of lighting up every time she gets to deliver the punchline, no matter how clichéd or clumsy it might be. Here, she’s required to perform a standard comedic routine, where her character ingests spicy food and has a full-body reaction to it. We’ve seen it a million times before, but she brings fresh humour to it as she burps and chugs milk, with the commitment of Daniel Day-Lewis.
Byrne, meanwhile, riffs on her role in the surprisingly sharp Bad Neighbours films, where she played an uptight, secretly cutthroat woman desperate to be thought of as still cool. It’s an archetype she can communicate with nothing but an awkward laugh, bulging eyes, and a few stiff dance moves. It’s perfectly pitched and unfailingly funny. Her fluttery, scatterbrained persona placed next to Haddish’s grounded confidence brings out the best of both of them.
Jennifer Coolidge and Billy Porter provide ample support as Mia and Mel’s employees with the latter, at one point, delivering a scene-stealing, histrionic exit from a fancy restaurant. Although Sam Pitman and Adam Cole-Kelly’s screenplay never looks beyond superficial “girl power” catchphrases, with only the faintest of nods to anti-corporate rebellion, it’s delivered by a cast so committed to the moment that it feels almost rude not to join in on the fun.