Review: ‘Four Samosas,’ starring Venk Potula, Sonal Shah, Sharmita Bhattacharya, Nirvan Patnaik, Karan Soni, Summer Bishil and Meera Simhan

June 18, 2022

by Carla Hay

Sonal Shah, Venk Potula, Sharmita Bhattacharya and Nirvan Patnaik in “Four Samosas” (Photo by Aakash Raj)

“Four Samosas”

Directed by Ravi Kapoor

Culture Representation: Taking place in Artesia, California, the comedy film “Four Samosas” features an all-Indian and Indian American cast of characters representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: When a wannabe rapper finds out that his ex-girlfriend is getting married, he and three other people plot to steal the ex-girlfriend’s dowry of diamonds from her father.

Culture Audience: “Four Samosas” will appeal primarily to people who like quirky comedies and don’t mind if there are too many silly plot developments and irritating characters.

Sonal Shah, Venk Potula, Sharmita Bhattacharya and Nirvan Patnaik in “Four Samosas” (Photo by Aakash Raj)

If the annoying comedy “Four Samosas” were an actual meal, it would be junk food that leaves a bad taste in your mouth. This crime caper film has too much nonsense and bad acting to be enjoyable. The basic concept of “Four Samosas” had a lot of potential, but it’s ruined by scatterbrained plot developments and the movie’s desperation to be a quirky slapstick comedy.

Written and directed by Ravi Kapoor, “Four Samosas” had its world premiere at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. However, “Four Samosas” looks like a student film or the type of movie that amateur filmmakers put on the Internet in the hopes of being discovered. The movie should be commended for having characters with easily identifiable personalities. Unfortunately, those personalities are shallow and can be described in two ways: obnoxious or dull.

And the most off-putting character is the “Four Samosas” protagonist: Vinesh, who goes by the nickname Vinny (played by Venk Potula), a wannabe rapper in his 20s, who lives in Artesia, California. Artesia is a small city that’s about 23 miles southeast of Los Angeles. Artesia has the nickname Little India because a large percentage of its population consists of Indian immigrants and Indian Americans.

Vinny has a day job as a sales clerk at a store that sells South Asian clothing. Expect to see some unfunny scenes of Vinny’s inept sales skills, as he tries to sell people items such as saris. Vinny has a mute female co-worker named Pushpa (played by Poonam Basu), whose muteness is mocked in some unamusing scenarios. Vinny’s so-called “rapping” is even worse than his sales skills. Kapoor co-wrote the original songs that are performed in the movie. Let’s just say that the songs range from forgettable to just plain embarrassing.

Vinny lives with his divorced mother Kamala (played by Meera Simhan), a seamstress who works out of the garage in their modest house. It’s mentioned early on in “Four Samosas” that Vinny’s father (played by “Four Samosas” director Kapoor), who doesn’t have a name in the movie, abandoned the family when Vinny was a child, but he still lives nearby. This deadbeat dad is now a Hindu priest, and Vinny seeks his advice in a few scenes that (much like most of this movie) end up falling flat in its attempt at being funny.

Vinny is living an aimless existence when he gets news that shakes him to the core: His ex-girlfriend Rina (played by Summer Bishil) is engaged to be married. Vinny and Rina dated for two years and broke up three years ago. Rina owns a hair salon, where Vinny goes to confront Rina about her upcoming wedding.

And in a very contrived scene, Vinny happens to meet Rina’s fiancé Sanjay (played by Karan Soni) outside of the salon. Sanjay is as confident as Vinny is insecure. Predictably, Vinny and Sanjay have an argument over Rina. It’s the type of silly scene where Sanjay brags that he’s better than “goat shit” and that he’s the “GOAT [greatest of all time] of goat shit.” It’s an example of the idiotic dialogue in “Four Samosas.”

And then, Vinny goes in the salon and argues with Rina, because an egomaniac like Vinny just can’t believe that Rina could marry someone else and possibly be happy without Vinny. Vinny asks Rina to break up with Sanjay and give Vinny another chance to date her. However, Rina essentially reminds Vinny why their relationship didn’t work: “You were so insecure. I got tired of waiting for you to realize that you deserve me.”

Vinny didn’t think he was good enough for Rina because she comes from a family of a higher social class. Her father, who’s only identified in the movie as Mr. Juneja (played by Tony Mirrcandani), owns a successful grocery store in Artesia called Juneja’s. (Rina’s mother is not seen or mentioned in the movie.) Vinny always believed that Mr. Juneja didn’t think Vinny was worthy of Rina. There are hints that Rina might still have feelings for Vinny, but she knows deep down that they were a mismatched couple.

Vinny is determined to stop Rina from getting married to Sanjay. He comes up with a plan to steal Rina’s dowry from Mr. Juneja. And it just makes Vinny look like an even more pathetic loser. The movie rapidly goes downhill from there.

Vinny ends up recruiting three accomplices for this crime:

  • Zak (played by Nirvan Patnaik), who is described as a “Bollywood dreamer,” is the only person in Vinny’s life who seems to be Vinny’s friend. Zak is a mild-mannered person who works at a server at a casual South Asian restaurant called Chaat House, but what Zak really wants to do with his life is be a Bollywood star. (You can easily predict that Zak will have a Bollywood musical moment in the movie.)
  • Anjali (played by Sharmita Bhattacharya), who is described as an “under overachiever,” is an aspiring journalist. She’s the editor-in-chief and publisher of a new start-up publication called the Great Little India Times, which she calls a newspaper, but it’s really a newsletter. Anjali has a crush on Zak, and the feeling is mutual. A running gag in the movie is that Anjali comes up with elaborate ideas that are more complicated than what needs to get done.
  • Para (played by Sonal Shah), who is described as a “malcontent engineer,” is an arrogant and cranky immigrant. Para is bitter because her plans fells apart to get a work visa or a green card. Para thinks she’s always the smartest person in the room. But in a badly made movie like “Four Samosas,” she’s just one of many idiots.

Somehow, Vinny knows that Rina’s dowry includes diamonds that her father keeps locked up in a safe in the back office of the grocery store. Vinny believes that they are “dirty diamonds” that were purchased on the black market. He tells his cohorts that stealing the diamonds will be “wealth reappropriation” where they will be stealing from the rich to give to the poor.

Zak is hesitant about getting involved in this crime, but Vinny tells him, “It isn’t right that people like Rina’s dad get rich, while good people like my auntie are dying because they can’t afford an operation.” Vinny says he’s going to use the money to pay for his aunt’s heart valve operation. Zak plans to use the money to finance Zac’s dreams of being a Bollywood star. Anjali wants more money for her start-up publication, while Paru plans to use the money to sort out her immigration problems. In other words, most of the money is going to be used for selfish reasons by these thieves.

“Four Samosas” has some supporting characters who are nothing but distracting nuisances. Nikki (played by Maya Kapoor) is Vinny’s teenage cousin, who tries to convince him to be a contestant in the Little India Cultural Show, a local talent contest. Vinny is very reluctant to participate. And you know what that means: There will eventually be a scene of Vinny in this talent show. Nikki is an aspiring rapper too. Her heinous shouting and screeching when she raps will make viewers want to cover their ears or stop watching this train wreck movie.

There’s also a group of five bizarre activists who call themselves the Revolutionaries. They all dress in identical red track suits, like they’re in some kind of cult, and they congregate outside an empty grassy lot to gather signatures for a petition. What is their cause? The Revolutionaries want to create an “independent South Asian state” on this tract of land. They want to name this state Aisetra, which is Artesia spelled backwards.

When Vinny walks past them on the street, the Revolutionaries ask him to sign their petition, but he refuses. “This is America,” he responds. “I want to keep it that way. If I wanted to be in South Asia, I’d go to South Asia.” The Revolutionaries then say that their proposed state could be the 51st state in the United States. Meanwhile, Vinny repeatedly tells the Revolutionaries in a condescending voice that Aisetra is Artesia spelled backwards. That’s what’s supposed to pass as “comedy” in this dreadful movie.

There are so many terribly conceived moments in “Four Samosas,” the movie just becomes a mishmash of people mugging for the cameras in nonsensical scenes. (And the mugging looks worse because of the movie’s over-reliance on close-up shots.) There’s no explanation for how Paru met the other three accomplices. She just shows up in her first scene with a rushed explanation about her immigration problems.

There’s a dumb scene where Anjali shows up unannounced at Mr. Juneja’s back office at the grocery store to pretend that she wants to interview him for the Great Little India Times. He agrees to the interview. Meanwhile, Zak begins to dance on a checkout counter in the store, so that the movie can waste a little time doing a Bollywood musical fantasy sequence. Mr. Juneja sees on surveillance video monitors in his office that Zak is causing a commotion in the store, so Mr. Juneja leaves the office to investigate.

It’s all a setup so that Anjali could be alone in the office to take pictures of the closed safe where Mr. Juneja keeps the diamonds. The safe also has a wad of cash, but the would-be thieves only want to take the diamonds, because they think they’re “dirty diamonds” that Mr. Juneja won’t report as missing to the police if the diamonds gets stolen. What’s so asinine about this “get Mr. Juneja out of the office” scene is that there’s no real reason for anyone to take photos of a closed safe (which can be opened by a combination code on a touch-tone keypad) when it doesn’t really help the would-be thieves figure out what the safe’s combination code could be.

Needless to say, more witless hijinks ensue before and after the theft. The thieves decide the best way to steal the diamonds is to hide in the grocery store when it’s closed, so that they have plenty of time to crack the safe. The movie’s opening scene announces that the theft did occur, and the thieves are shown running out of the grocery store, so there’s no suspense leading up to that moment.

One of the few things that seems slightly amusing in “Four Samosas” is that the four thieves decide to disguise themselves by dressing up as the opposite sex. These drag disguises could have been the source of some hilarious comedic scenarios, but this idea is just a cheap gimmick that goes nowhere. It’s one of many examples of the movie’s half-baked ideas that are overshadowed by ditsy dialogue and characters with terrible or boring personalities.

Sagar Desai’s musical score for “Four Samosas” is better-suited for a tacky sitcom rather than a screwball comedy movie. It seems like the “Four Samosas” filmmakers mistakenly thought that dialing up the grating music and the manic energy would somehow make everything funnier. It doesn’t. The aftermath of the theft is just ridiculousness that will make viewers dislike the characters even more.

“Four Samosas” also has a mid-credits scene and an end-credits scene that have no bearing on the main story. These credits scenes just reek of self-indulgent garbage with no real thought put into making anything truly funny. Anyone who keeps watching “Four Samosas” until the very excruciating end will feel like they’ve gone through a more squirm-inducing endurance test than any of the foolish shenanigans inflicted by the moronic characters in this time-wasting movie.

Review: ‘7 Days’ (2022), starring Karan Soni and Geraldine Viswanathan

June 14, 2021

by Carla Hay

Geraldine Viswanathan and Karan Soni in “7 Days” (Photo by Eduardo Fierro/Cinedigm)

“7 Days” (2022)

Directed by Roshan Sethi

Culture Representation: Taking place in Thermal, California, the romantic comedy film “7 Days” features a predominantly Indian and Indian American cast of characters (with a few white people who speak off camera) representing the middle-class.

Culture Clash: Two Indian Americans, whose parents are eager for them to find a spouse, meet on a blind date at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and find out that instead of having many things in common, they are complete opposites.

Culture Audience: “7 Days” will appeal primarily to people who like quirky romantic comedies with an “opposites attract” or COVID-19 pandemic angle, but the movie is often sluggishly paced and relies too much on stereotypes seen in many other romantic comedies.

Geraldine Viswanathan in “7 Days” (Photo courtesy of Cinedigm)

It’s a little tiresome when American-made movies and TV programs stereotype men of Indian heritage as socially awkward, sometimes emasculated nerds. This over-used ethnic cliché is shoved in viewers’ faces to annoying levels in the romantic comedy “7 Days,” co-starring Karan Soni as a lovelorn Indian American who’s desperately looking for a wife. Geraldine Viswanathan plays his would-be love interest in the movie, but the story is told from the man’s perspective. “7 Days” had its world premiere at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival.

Directed by Roshan Sethi (who co-wrote the “7 Days” screenplay with Soni), “7 Days” is essentially a dull mumblecore movie with a COVID-19 gimmick. The movie is also Sethi’s feature-film directorial debut. And it just so happens that all of the people who appear on camera in the movie are of Indian heritage. This type of representation is rare for an American-made feature film, but it’s not enough to automatically guarantee that the movie will be great.

Unfortunately, “7 Days” has too many scenes that drag with dialogue that falls flat because of the clumsy comedic timing. Viswanathan seems to be more talented at believable facial expressions than Soni is, but there is no convincing romantic chemistry between these two actors at all. Whatever is going on between the characters that Soni and Viswanathan portray in the movie, viewers will get the impression that this isn’t a romance to root for but it’s going to be strictly a “friend zone” platonic relationship. The filmmakers want to make it look like a romance, but it’s all so phony and passionless.

The beginning of “7 Days” starts off with four real-life, middle-aged, happily married Indian couples talking about how they met, which was usually through arrangements by their families. (Soni’s parents are among the couples.) It’s an adorable introduction, but then the movie gets right to the fictional part of the story and the clichés. The next sequence is straight out of a Bollywood rom-com. Viewers find out that two unmarried young people have mothers who are scheming to find each of them a suitable spouse.

The bachelor and bachelorette are American children of Indian immigrants. The would-be couple are 31-year-old Ravi (played by Soni) and 28-year-old Rita (played by Viswanathan), who both live in California, but not in cities that are near each other. In voiceover narration, Ravi’s mother (played by Gita Reddy) and Rita’s mother (played by Zenobia Shroff) extol the attractive qualities of their respective children, as if they’re creating profiles for them on Indian matchmatching sites. (The mothers in this story do not have names.)

According to Ravi’s mother, Ravi is the youngest and her favorite of her three sons because he’s the most emotionally mature. Ravi works as a researcher at a local university. His mother describes him as kind and responsible. And he loves to cook vegetarian food.

According to Rita’s mother, Rita is a “free-spirit girl with strict moral values” whose hobbies include “caring for her future in-laws.” As for Rita’s food preferences, her mother says that Rita is a pescatarian, but she’s willing to be a vegetarian for the right family. Rita seems to be an only child, since there’s no mention of her having siblings.

In addition to having family members who play matchmaker, Ravi and Rita belong to several Indian-oriented dating sites. Ravi and Rita’s first date (a blind date) takes place in March 2020, during the first week of the COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns in the United States. Ravi has traveled to Thermal, California, where Rita lives. And their first uncomfortable date is a picnic in an empty reservoir. Rita and Ravi are both wearing face masks, while Ravi also has on latex gloves.

Ravi is the epitome of an insecure, neurotic dork who has lived a very sheltered life. He says things that he thinks people want to hear so that they will like and accept him. And he often over-apologizes to the point that it gets irritating. In other words, he’s a typical sensitive male protagonist in a mumblecore movie.

Rita is more self-assured than Ravi, but she also has her insecurity issues. One of them is that she lives a double life. She presents herself as a straight-laced person to her parents, who don’t live near her, but she’s very different in real life. Rita is an unemployed slob whose parents are paying for her living expenses.

The conversation during Ravi and Rita’s picnic date doesn’t go very well. Ravi is nervous and sweaty. He tells a dumb joke about how he’s sweating just like he would in India. Rita seems unimpressed by Ravi. He’s also very conscious of following social distancing guidelines of staying at least six feet apart. At one point, he says to Rita with a forced laugh: “You’re so funny. We have great banter. Can you move back a few inches?”

Ravi likes to eat healthy food, and he doesn’t drink alcohol. He’s under the impression that Rita is also a teetotaler. When he brings out some lemonade in aluminum cans, Ravi is mortified to see that it’s hard lemonade.

He thinks he might have offended Rita for bringing alcoholic beverages on this date. He makes a profuse apology by saying that when he got the lemonade from the store, he didn’t look closely at the cans to see what type of lemonade it was. Rita tells him not to worry about it, but Ravi is the type of person who will worry about it.

This picnic date at the reservoir isn’t fun at all, so Rita suggests that they go back to her place. She lives in a middle-class house that looks tidy on the outside, but it’s very cluttered and unkempt on the inside. Rita is the type of person who will leave food wrappers, empty beer bottles and other garbage on tables and on the floor. It’s the first clue that Ravi and viewers have that Rita’s life, just like her house, is messy.

When they arrive at the house, Rita and Ravi both call their respective mothers to give them a summary of how the date is going so far. Even though there are no romantic sparks between Ravi and Rita, they both tell their mothers that this date has potential. Ravi is more invested because he’s traveled a long distance to meet Rita. And he’s the one who wants to get married in the near future.

Ravi doesn’t waste time in telling Rita what his life goals are: He’s soon going to buy a house, he wants to get married that year, and he wants to start a family the following year. He also plans to have three kids. Because Rita and Ravi met as a result of their mothers’ matchmaking efforts, it’s not considered too forward for Ravi to already be talking marriage on the first date. In fact, by traditional Indian custom, it’s not unusual at all.

As can happen in a very unrealistically contrived movie like “7 Days,” Ravi finds out that his rental car won’t be available until the next morning, so he won’t be able to drive back home that night. Rita recommends a hotel nearby where he can stay for the night. Ravi calls the hotel and finds out it will be closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ravi doesn’t do what most people would do: Make a reservation at another hotel.

In reality (not in this movie), during the pandemic lockdown period, most hotels were still open and desperate for business. Hotels had plenty of vacancies because they experienced an enormous number of reservation cancellations during the lockdown period. But that reality is not in “7 Days,” because the entire movie is based on the contrivance of Ravi staying at Rita’s place so that the story can go exactly where you know it’s going to go.

At first, Ravi says he’s only going to stay until his rental car is ready. But the title of the movie already telegraphs how many days he’s really going to stay at Rita’s place. And in a formulaic rom-com like this one, that means he’s supposed to go through several uncomfortable moments because he and Rita are opposites.

The unrealistic plot developments continue. Ravi finds out that his rental car won’t be ready for three days, which is really the movie’s way of extending the time that Ravi has to stay at Rita’s house. And because there’s a “shelter in place” quarantine mandate in California, Ravi and Rita don’t go outside for most of the movie.

The “uptight nerd having awkward moments with the uninhibited love interest” is an angle that’s been done in many other rom-coms, and it’s played up to repetitive and ultimately tedious levels in “7 Days.” After Rita agrees to let Ravi temporarily stay at her house, he goes in the bathroom and is horrified to see a dildo on the sink. “Oh, this can’t be happening,” Ravi says to himself, as if he’s just seen a real body part.

Soon after Ravi finds out that he’s going to be staying at Rita’s place, he starts to really regret it. It’s because he overhears Rita on the phone, having raunchy sex talk with someone she calls “Daddy.” At first, Ravi thinks that Rita is talking to her father in an incestuous way. Ravi is naturally shocked and disgusted, but he made a wrong assumption.

Rita is actually talking to her older married lover who’s separated from his wife, but this married lover is vague with Rita on when he’s going to divorce his wife. He seems to be leading Rita on with an excuse that things are complicated for him in his marriage. “Daddy” never appears on camera in the movie and his real name is never revealed. He’s voiced by Mark Duplass, one of the executive producers of “7 Days,” who’s an actor/filmmaker with a lot of mumblecore movies in his filmography.

Most of Ravi and Rita’s interactions consist of more painfully unfunny banter. It isn’t long before Ravi finds out that Rita is almost everything that he doesn’t want in a woman: Rita says she never wants to get married. She drinks a lot of alcohol. And she loves junk food. There’s a scene where Rita enthusiastically eats fried chicken, even though her online profile says that she’s a pescatarian.

Ravi’s and Rita’s lifestyle differences also extend to the type of movies that they like to watch. Ravi is a big fan of Bollywood movies, but Rita doesn’t care for this type of entertainment. She’s a lot more into American culture overall than Ravi is. And she seems to be faking to her parents that she’s interested in the Indian tradition of arranged marriages, because she doesn’t want to lose her parents’ financial support.

Issues of gender roles inevitably come up, as they tend to do in rom-coms. Ravi makes an offhand remark that Rita’s voice sounds like the instructional service app Siri. Rita immediately gets defensive and says, “You mean I sound subservient.” Ravi tells Rita that he identifies as a “male feminist.” Still, Ravi is slightly alarmed and surprised that Rita doesn’t like to cook. And he ends up cooking for both of them.

Rita has this to say to Ravi about why she doesn’t see marriage in her future: “It’s just someone else to fight and disappoint and hate. It’s exhausting.” And when fidgety Ravi gets restless in the house, Rita suggests that they just sit around and do nothing. “The less you do, the less you do,” she says.

This type of boring and witless dialogue goes on for much of the movie. Predictably, Rita spikes Ravi’s drink with alcohol to loosen him up. He gets angry that she spiked his drink, but then he gets drunk and does an atrocious standup comedy routine for Rita. While under the influence of alcohol, Ravi opens up about feeling vulnerable and self-conscious that his parents are divorced.

And then, someone in this mismatched duo starts having a persistent cough and develops a fever. And you know what that means in a rom-com with a COVID-19 gimmick. This plot development isn’t handled very well in the movie. “7 Days” essentially dismisses all the deaths and tragedies that people have experienced because of this pandemic and treats this harsh reality as something that would get in the way of a cutesy rom-com plot. If anyone dies of COVID-19 in this movie, it’s a tragedy that this movie brushes off as trivial.

Even in March 2020, during the early part of the pandemic when this movie takes place, people were aware of how quickly large numbers of people were dying from COVID-19. But in this movie, Ravi and Rita are depicted as being in a self-absorbed (and irresponsible) “bubble” where they don’t care to be informed about what’s happening in the news about the pandemic. They’re more concerned about doing things like a virtual exercise workout routine using Rita’s laptop computer.

Viswanathan and Soni are very talented and have had more appealing roles elsewhere. In “7 Days,” they both play characters that just aren’t credible as a romantic couple. Ravi’s neuroses are on full display, but Rita is an underwritten and underdeveloped character. She’s supposed to be the “wacky one” in the relationship, but her personality is ultimately hollow.

Viewers never find out why Rita wants to live an aimless, unemployed life. Her hopes and dreams are never mentioned. How she was raised by her parents, her work history and her social life (other than her affair with “Daddy”) remain a mystery. By the end of the movie, viewers still won’t know much about Rita.

And when you have a romantic comedy where one of the people in the would-be couple remains an enigma, the dialogue is wretchedly monotonous, and there’s no realistic chemistry between the two main actors who are supposed to be this couple, the end result is a disappointing and off-kilter rom-com that isn’t funny or romantic.

UPDATE: Cinedigm will release “7 Days” in select U.S. cinemas on March 25, 2022. The movie will be released on digital and VOD on April 26, 2022.

Review: ‘Like a Boss,’ starring Tiffany Haddish, Rose Byrne and Salma Hayek

January 10, 2020

by Carla Hay

Tiffany Haddish, Rose Byrne and Salma Hayek in "Like a Boss"
Tiffany Haddish, Rose Byrne and Salma Hayek in “Like a Boss” (Photo by Eli Joshua Ade/Paramount Pictures)

“Like a Boss”

Directed by Miguel Arteta

Culture Representation: Taking place in Atlanta and centered on the beauty industry, the comedy “Like a Boss” has a racially diverse cast that includes representation of white people, African Americans, Latinos and Asians in the middle and upper classes.

Culture Clash: Pandering to the worst stereotypes of women, the plot of “Like a Boss” is basically about a corporate catfight.

Culture Audience: “Like a Boss” will appeal primarily to people who like mindless comedies that sink to low and crude levels.

Tiffany Haddish, Salma Hayek and Rose Byrne in “Like a Boss” (Photo by Eli Joshua Ade/Paramount Pictures)

If you were someone who sat through the excruciatingly dumb trailer of “Like a Boss” as it played during previews of a movie you saw in a theater, you might have seen from the repulsed reactions of people in the audience that this movie was not only a turn-off but it was also going to be a flop. “Like a Boss” tries to pass itself off as a raunchy feminist film, but in the end, the movie (written and directed by men) treats women like trash by presenting them as clueless about business and being at their cruelest to other women. “Like a Boss” director Miguel Arteta and screenwriters Adam Cole-Kelly and Sam Pitman should be embarrassed about putting this crap into the world, because it shows how inept they are at making a female-centric comedy.

The plot centers on entrepreneurs Mel Paige (played by Rose Byrne) and Mia Carter (played by Tiffany Haddish), two best friends since childhood who have an Atlanta store that sells their own brand of beauty products called M&M. Mel handles the financial matters of the business, while Mia handles the creative aspects. On the surface, things seem to be going well, but Mel is hiding a secret that she eventually confesses to Mia: their company is $493,000 in debt. (This isn’t a spoiler, since the confession is in the movie’s trailers. And if you’ve seen the trailers, you’ve basically seen what could be called the best parts of this bad movie.) It doesn’t help the company’s finances that Mia likes to give deep discounts to customers for random reasons.

However, M&M is making enough sales to attract the attention of corporate shark Claire Luna (played by Salma Hayek), the owner of the successful  beauty corporation Ovieda that’s supposed to be a market leader. The writers of this movie clearly don’t know that the biggest U.S.-based beauty companies in America are actually headquartered in New York or Los Angeles, but maybe the filmmakers got financial incentives from Atlanta to have this cheap-looking movie take place there.

Claire swoops in to make an offer to buy 51% of M&M and pay off all the company’s debts. Mel wants to do the deal, but Mia is reluctant because it would break Mel and Mia’s pact to never sell the business. Mia, who is more street-smart than Mel, also senses that Claire can’t be trusted. However, Mel is desperate to erase the company’s debts, and argues with Mia that the sale would be good for the company.

After Claire observes the tension that the proposed deal is causing between the two longtime friends, Claire offers to buy 49% of the company on the condition that if either Mel or Mia leaves the company, Claire will get 51% ownership of the business. Of course, in a movie as stupid and unrealistic as this one, not only do Mel and Mia cave in to Claire’s demands that they make their decision in one day, but they also sign the deal in Claire’s office without any attorneys involved.

As a further insult to women, the screenwriters came up with the catty motivation that Claire targeted Mel and Mia for a takeover because she’s jealous of their close friendship and wants the deal to break up Mel and Mia. It turns out that Claire started Ovieda with her longtime best friend, whom Claire ended up firing because Claire is basically a greedy you-know-what. Claire wants to split up Mel and Mia because Claire failed at working with her best friend, so Claire can’t stand to see two female best friends work well together as business partners. In other words, Claire isn’t thinking like a real business person but is thinking like a petty high schooler. If this corporate raider were a man, there’s no way the filmmakers would come up with this moronic motivation to take over a company.

But the cattiness doesn’t stop there in “Like a Boss.” Mel and Mia have a circle of bourgeois “frenemies”—Kim, Jill and Angela (played by Jessica St. Clair, Natasha Rothwell and Ari Graynor)—mostly married mothers who apparently look down on the unmarried and childless Mel and Mia, who still live like college students. Mel and Mia are roommates who regularly smoke pot and have meaningless flings with boy toys. Meanwhile, Mel and Mia are convinced that their own lifestyles are better than their domesticated friends because Mel and Mia don’t have the responsibilities of husbands and children. Mel and Mia and their “Real Housewives”-type friends spend almost all of their scenes together trying to outdo and impress each other instead of genuinely having fun together as real friends do.

There’s also an unnecessary subplot where Claire pits Mia and Mel against two sexist men named Greg (played by Ryan Hansen) and Ron (played by Jimmy O. Yang), who have their own beauty company that’s competing with M&M for the millions being offered by Claire in the acquisition deal. Greg and Ron are portrayed as dorks who think they’re “woke,” but they’re really dismissive of their customers’ needs. They see beauty products as a way to exploit customers’ insecurities about their looks instead of enhancing natural beauty, and so their company uses a lot of cringeworthy marketing techniques that reflect this condescending attitude.

“Like a Boss” is polluted with some not-very-funny slapstick moments and an annoying fixation on telling jokes about women’s private parts every 10 minutes. There are cheesy Lifetime movies that are better than “Like a Boss,” which certainly isn’t worth spending any money to see. Byrne is capable of doing better work in comedies (as evidenced by “Bridesmaids” and “Neighbors”), but in “Like a Boss,” her Mel character is such a one-dimensional, uptight neurotic that there’s no room for any nuanced complexities.

Haddish continues to put herself in Typecast Hell as the foul-mouthed, quick-tempered, loud caricature that she keeps doing in every movie she’s done since her breakout in 2017’s “Girls Trip,” which is still her best film. Even though her Mia character in “Like a Boss” is college-educated, Mia is an unsophisticated mess. Unfortunately, there are many people in this world who have little or no contact with black women, and they get their ideas and stereotypes of black women from what they see on screen. Fortunately, we have versatile and intelligent actresses like Viola Davis, Regina King and Lupita Nyong’o to offset the damaging, negative stereotypes of black women that Haddish continues to perpetuate in her choice of roles.

“Like a Boss” also has some Hispanic racial stereotyping, since Claire makes Mel and Mia do some salsa-like dance moves with her in the office while Mexican music suddenly plays in the background. (Hayek is Mexican, in case you didn’t know.) There’s also a running gag that Claire can’t speak proper English because she’s constantly mispronouncing and fabricating English words. The not-so-subtle message the filmmakers are conveying is that Latino immigrants who are successful in American business still aren’t smart enough to master the English language. Just because “Like a Boss” director Arteta is also Latino doesn’t excuse this awful stereotyping.

Meanwhile, Hayek and Billy Porter (who plays the sassy Barrett, an openly gay employee of Mel and Mia) have the talent to be doing Oscar-caliber work. Instead, they are slumming it in this garbage movie. Supporting characters that could have been interesting are instead poorly written knock-offs that have been seen countless times before in other movies. Jennifer Coolidge plays the ditzy blonde (Sydney, an employee of Mel and Mia), while Karan Soni plays the villain’s smarmy lackey (Josh, who is Claire’s assistant).

“Like a Boss” is supposed to be a comedy about female empowerment in corporate America, but instead this movie has a very ghetto, misogynistic mindset that belongs in the same trash pile as a bunch of toxic and outdated cosmetics products.

Paramount Pictures released “Like a Boss” in U.S. cinemas on January 10, 2020.

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