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‘Like a Boss’: Charms of Tiffany Haddish, Rose Byrne can’t conceal crass comedy’s blemishes

The two likable actresses go slumming with desperate slapstick and cheap genital jokes.

Rose Byrne (left) and Tiffany Haddish play lifelong friends trying to save their collapsing makeup business in “Like a Boss.”
Paramount Pictures

“It’s karaoke night!” – A line we pretty much expected to hear in “Like a Boss,” which never fails to meet our lowest expectations.

Imagine how great it would be to see a vehicle worthy of the respective likability, comedic chops, intelligence, onscreen charisma and beauty of Tiffany Haddish and Rose Byrne.

No, I mean you’re really going to have to imagine that, because “Like a Boss” is not that movie.

The first comedy of the new decade is an instant contender for one of the worst comedies of the new year. Even at a mercifully short 83 minutes, “Like a Boss” overstays its welcome by about … 60 minutes.

And that’s being generous.

This is a slick, condescending, formulaic, one-dimensional and utterly forgettable comedy that seems to think a steady parade (more like onslaught) of genitalia-based humor makes for an edgy, R-rated, female-drive comedy a la “Bridesmaids,” when in fact it’s just a crass and dumbed-down buddy movie in lipstick and eye shadow.

Literally.

Mia (Tiffany Haddish) and Mel (Rose Byrne) have been best friends since middle school, when Mel was taken in by Mia’s family because her own mother was never around because she cooked meth. (No really. That’s what we’re told.) Mia and Mel have stuck together through good times and bad, as evidenced in a scene when Mia says to Mel, “Remember when my mother died?”

Yes. She probably does remember that, Mia.

So … Mel and Mia have only each other, what with Mia’s mom being dead and Mel’s mom cooking the meth, and their respective fathers apparently ghosts, as they’re never so much as mentioned.

They still live together in the house in which they grew up — and they’ve built a seemingly successful boutique/online cosmetics company called Mel & Mia’s. (Their most popular product is a makeup travel kit called “One Night Stand,” perfect for those mornings after, well, a one-night stand, when you need to give yourself a little touch-up before heading out the door.)

I say “seemingly” because it turns out Mel & Mia’s is nearly a half-million dollars in debt and about to go out of business, in large part because the no-filter, trash-talking, live-your-best-life-with-no-apologies Mia (the creative one) is constantly ditching work and giving out discounts to customers, and Mel (who handles the business end) is too timid to say anything to Mia about her irresponsible practices.

Remember that. Mia is a wild and crazy free spirit. Mel is a people pleaser who never speaks her mind. We are reminded of those respective character traits again and again and AGAIN in “Like a Boss.”

Why, it almost seems like we’re heading for a big confrontational moment when they finally rip into one another and speak truths they’ve been dying to say for 20 years!

Just when it seems it’s lights out for Mel & Mia’s, in swoops the mega-successful cosmetics legend Claire Luna (Salma Hayek), who offers to pay off Mia & Mel’s debt and invest nearly $2 million in their business in exchange for 49% ownership of the company — which will increase to 51% if either Mia or Mel ever quit.

Why, it almost seems like the evil, scheming Claire intends to drive a wedge between Mia and Mel, just so she can gain control of their company!

Insert a full row of facepalm emoji guys right here.

Nearly every scene in “Like a Boss” has the air of desperation. Mia and Mel jump from the roof of a home into the swimming pool below, for no good reason. Mia steps onto a ledge and threatens to kill herself if Claire won’t meet with her and Mel — and nearly plunges to her death when she loses her balance. Mia inadvertently consumes hot peppers, which results in her consuming and projectile spitting out goat milk (don’t ask), and of course winding up on the toilet.

Claire Luna (Salma Hayek, foreground) offers to bail out the company run by Mia (Tiffany Haddish, left) and Mel (Rose Byrne) in “Like a Boss.”
Paramount Pictures

There are a LOT of penis jokes. Just as many vagina jokes. The one thing they have in common: thuddingly unfunny.

Salma Hayek is a train wreck as the villainous Claire Luna, who makes ridiculous proclamations and walks around her insanely expansive, multi-storied headquarters with a golf club — the better to smash things when she loses her temper. Billy Porter as Mel & Mia’s co-worker Barrett plays to the back row in a self-indulgent, wildly over-the-top performance better suited to Improv Night than legitimately reacting to situations.

To the very end, “Like a Boss” has a cheap and sticky veneer — as if they dusted off the script for some dated and crummy 1990s comedy, applied a coat of putatively fresh paint and dumped it into theaters, hoping we wouldn’t notice the stench.