It’s entirely possible that a movie that begins with one main character explicitly recounting a sex dream about a former U.S. president could turn out to be an enjoyable, if crude, comedy.
“Like a Boss” is not that film.
Instead, this laughter-free opening sequence is an accurate harbinger of things to come, a movie in which the dead air that follows bad jokes sometimes threatens to swallow its actors whole.
You know how people have been making fun of “Cats” since it first appeared in the litter box in December? Well, “Cats” is not a good movie, but at least its nuttiness exerts a very watchable kind of fascination. “Like a Boss” is worse in so many ways, and so lacking in distinction — nutty or otherwise — that it won’t be remembered after next week.
The film strands some capable players in its tone-deaf vacuum. Tiffany Haddish and Rose Byrne play childhood friends now running a cosmetics boutique, where they sell their own products.
The business is in the red, so when a make-up mogul (Salma Hayek) swoops in to buy a controlling stake in the company, the offer is tempting. But will the friendship be tested by the realities of big business, and can the women keep their ideals alive in the process?
These feeble questions are batted around between slapstick scenes that appear to be set up so that Haddish might improvise her way toward something funny. She finds a couple of nuggets, but this is yet another movie that wastes her particular talent (even though the R rating leaves room for any and all raunchy improvisations — including explicit dreams about an ex-president).
We also get Jennifer Coolidge as the boutique’s shop clerk, which guarantees a couple of the actress’s trademark spacey anecdotes-from-nowhere. Someday that shtick might get old, but not just yet.
Also in support is Billy Porter, the actor-singer known for his over-the-top sense of couture. He single-handedly makes a few scenes come to goofy life with his drop-dead camp approach, including a memorable high-diva reaction to getting fired. This movie should do for Porter what “Girls Trip” did for Haddish.
The director is Miguel Arteta, who has displayed a comic talent in his previous films (including the deadpan and disturbing “Beatriz at Dinner,” starring Hayek). How this movie got to be this awful is baffling.
It clocks in at 83 minutes, including end credits, so there’s probably a lot on the cutting-room floor. How bad must that material be? Does it include an explicit account of a sex dream about a non-ex-president? One shudders.
“Like a Boss” (1 star)
A laughter-free movie about partners in a cosmetics boutique (Tiffany Haddish and Rose Byrne) who sell out their business and possibly their friendship. The movie, which has plenty of raunch, keeps floundering around in search of something, and even Billy Porter’s campy theatrics can’t save it. With Salma Hayek.
Rating: R, for language, subject matter
Opening Friday: Alderwood Mall, Cinebarre Mountlake Terrace, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Meridian, Pacific Place, Thornton Place, Woodinville, Cascade Mall