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Tiffany & Rose’s very unfortunat­e adventure


The signs were as loud as klaxon horns, warning us that “Like a Boss” would be a stinker: the January release date, the shoddy poster, the dubious conceit (the beauty business is, uh, ugly). Director Miguel Arteta made his name with indie movies like “Star Maps” and has fared well with more mainstream fare like the affable comedy “Cedar Rapids.” But he needs a solid narrative frame that can support his quiet strengths, notably the ability to make a room full of actors feel as real as your friends.

Too bad that there’s nothing human or funny about “Like a Boss” and little that seems (rather than desperatel­y spitballed) although at least Billy Porter gets a few minutes to show that he can snap even a dud briefly to life. Once he exits, it’s back to grim business in a story about two longtime besties, Mia and Mel — the unpersuasi­vely matched Tiffany Haddish and Rose Byrne — who live, work and party as one. They brush their teeth in side-by-side sinks, drive to work in a beater and enjoy the occasional hookups, though never, ahem, with each other.

The story wobbles into existence when Mia and Mel sell a stake in their struggling artisanal makeup company to Claire Luna (Salma Hayek), a mercenary beauty titan whose company seems to be located in a vast mall peopled by zombies. Claire enters with an ugly dye job, ridiculous­ly tottering heels and evil schemes, twirling a golf club (the better to totter threatenin­gly) and trailed by a toadyish assistant (Karan Soni). She’s a cartoon of a female boss that suggests, once again, that the men running the movie industry are seriously not down with ladies having a say.

Hayek is playing a noxious stereotype in a movie that gleefully exploits stereotype­s. Like some of the other unfunny female-driven comedies, this one tries to turn raunch into hilarity, yucks into yuks, but it’s hard to laugh when a movie treats women with contempt. Making fun of accents is chancy, but what makes this scene grate is that — like much of this movie — the humor is located in identity. “Like a Boss” mocks her accent and turns her looks into a spectacle, reducing her threat and power.

It’s a bummer to see all this talent so badly abused. It’s especially disappoint­ing given that the last movie Arteta directed Hayek in was “Beatriz at Dinner” (2017), a fierce political comedy about haves and have-nots written by Mike White, who, sadly, is MIA here. There’s no comparable sense of ethics or political awareness in “Like a Boss,” which peddles toothless sisterhood while operating

‘Like a Boss’

› Rating: R

› Running time: 1 hour,

23 minutes

› Theaters: Regal Hamilton Place, AMC Chattanoog­a 18, AMC Classic Battlefiel­d 10

from the premise that there’s something inherently funny about women cursing, having sex and getting stoned, you know, acting like (stereotype­d) dudes. The reality that women are as human as men — have the same complexiti­es, habits and feels — seems beyond this crew.

It’s always hard to know who to blame for a mess like this, though everyone deserves some, including writers Sam Pitman and Adam Cole-Kelly. Throw in the executives who bought the pitch in an auction and then motored ahead, and the handlers who persuaded Haddish, Hayek and Byrne to join in. Actors make lousy choices all the time, and if “Like a Boss” makes money, no one will care that it’s formulaic, unfunny, choppy, insults women and seems to be missing much of its middle. Money is the great leveler in the industry, absolving all sins, including creative ones.

In the end, the funniest thing here is the name of the production company, Artists First. It’s also the saddest.

 ?? ROY ROCHLIN/GETTY IMAGES FOR PARAMOUNT PICTURES/TNS ?? Tiffany Haddish, Salma Hayek and Rose Byrne, from left, attend the Paramount Pictures’ “Like A Boss” photocall at the Whitby Hotel in New York.
ROY ROCHLIN/GETTY IMAGES FOR PARAMOUNT PICTURES/TNS Tiffany Haddish, Salma Hayek and Rose Byrne, from left, attend the Paramount Pictures’ “Like A Boss” photocall at the Whitby Hotel in New York.

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