Review: ‘Wonder Woman 1984,’ starring Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Pedro Pascal and Kristen Wiig

December 24, 2020

by Carla Hay

Gal Gadot in “Wonder Woman 1984” (Photo by Clay Enos/Warner Bros. Pictures & © DC Comics)

“Wonder Woman 1984”

Directed by Patty Jenkins

Culture Representation: Taking place in 1984, primarily in Washington, D.C, plus other parts of the world, the superhero action flick “Wonder Woman 1984” has a predominantly white cast of characters (with some Latinos, African Americans and Asians) representing different classes of people.

Culture Clash: Diana Prince, also known as superhero Wonder Woman, battles against a power-hungry business mogul who wants to rule the world, while one of her female co-workers falls into the mogul’s seductive trap and becomes his ally.

Culture Audience: “Wonder Woman 1984″ will appeal primarily to people who like family-friendly, comic-book-based movies that blend action with social issues and goofy comedy.

Pedro Pascal in “Wonder Woman 1984” (Photo by Clay Enos/Warner Bros. Pictures & © DC Comics)

“Wonder Woman 1984” could have been subtitled “Be Careful What You Wish For, You Just Might Get It,” because by the end of the movie, this old adage has been pounded into viewers’ consciousness to the point of being almost numbing. “Wonder Woman 1984” is the sequel to the 2017 blockbuster “Wonder Woman,” which was a less bloated, less sociopolitical movie than “Wonder Woman 1984,” but the original “Wonder Woman” movie took itself more seriously as an action film. Both movies (based on DC Comics’ “Wonder Woman” series) were directed by Patty Jenkins, who did not write 2017’s “Wonder Woman,” but she co-wrote the “Wonder Woman 1984” screenplay with Geoff Johns and Dave Callaham.

The results in “Wonder Woman 1984” are mixed. On the one hand, the movie aims to be a crowd-pleaser appealing to various generations of people. In the first half of the movie, Wonder Woman has the type of fun-loving superhero action that’s almost cartoonish. In a chase scene that happens fairly early in the movie, Wonder Woman (played by Gal Gadot), also known as Diana Prince, thwarts a heist in a shopping mall by singlehandedly apprehending the four thieves who robbed a jewelry store in the mall. She gives a wink and a smile to some awestruck kids who witness this spectacle. There are also several campy moments in the movie with the character who ends up being the story’s chief villain.

But on the other hand, in the second half of the movie, there are some heavy-handed issues about the nuclear arms race, greed and political corruption that overwhelm the plot. And the plot goes a little bit off the rails because it involves people worldwide having to agree to undo a lot of things that already did significant damage. Not even Wonder Woman is that much of a superhuman political diplomat, but “Wonder Woman 1984” tries to bite off more than it can chew with this concept.

The movie’s total running time is a little too long, at two-and-a-half hours. The tone is very uneven, because “Wonder Woman 1984” has some problems balancing the comedic moments with the serious moments. And the visual effects are hit and miss. (Some of the human characters look very fake in CGI action scenes.) Despite the flaws in “Wonder Woman 1984,” it’s still a fairly enjoyable superhero movie, because of the convincing interactions between the characters and because it mostly succeeds as an entertaining story that holds people’s interest.

“Wonder Woman 1984” begins where “Wonder Woman” began: in her female-only Amazon homeland, the island nation of Themyscira, which is supposed to be a place that has secretly existed on Earth for eons. The actresses who portray the Amazons of Themyscira have a mishmash of European accents. A young Diana (played by Lilly Aspell), who’s about 9 or 10 years old, is seen in an intense athletic competition with adult Amazon warriors. There’s no explanation for why Diana is the only child in this competition, which involves several obstacle courses of running, riding horses and shooting arrows through giant circles placed on top of tall structures.

As a princess, Diana is expected to win for her team. But when she falls off of a horse and lags behind her competitors, she decides to take a shortcut to make up for lost time. She ends up finishing ahead of her competitors, but her mentor Antiope (played by Robin Wright), who’s also the competition’s judge, disqualifies Diana as the winner, because Diana cheated and therefore she’s “not ready to be a true winner.”

Diana’s queen mother Hippolyta (played by Connie Nielsen) comforts a disappointed Diana by telling her: “One day, you’ll become everything you dream of and more. And everything will be different. This world is not ready for all that you will do.” In case people don’t know about Wonder Woman already, she seems to be immortal, because as an adult, she’s able to live through several centuries and still look like she’s in her late 20s/early 30s.

The movie then fast-forwards to 1984 in Washington, D.C., where Diana is working at the Smithsonian Museum as a cultural anthropologist and archaeologist. She is grieving over the death of her American pilot boyfriend Steve Trevor (played by Chris Pine), who (spoiler alert) died during a heroic feat in the first “Wonder Woman” movie, which took place in 1918 during World War I. And now, Diana is moonlighting as Wonder Woman, who is only known to the public at this point as a mysterious crime fighter who’s recently been sighted in the D.C. area.

The four thieves who were apprehended by Wonder Woman in the shopping mall weren’t doing a run-of-the-mill theft in a jewelry store. The store had a hidden room with stolen treasure items that were being sold on the black market. One of the items stolen was a citrine, a classic stone used in fake gems throughout history.

A pointed citrine stone that was part of the stolen haul makes its way to the Smithsonian Museum, where the FBI has asked Smithsonian experts to help identify the origins of some of the stolen treasure. One of the Smithsonian experts enlisted for this task is Barbara Minerva (played by Kristen Wiig), a meek and socially awkward nerd who works in geology, gemology, lithology and cryptozoology.

Barbara is someone who is routinely ignored and/or disrespected by her work colleagues. Her co-workers barely acknowledge her presence when she greets them. Her supervisor Carol (played by Natasha Rothwell) doesn’t even remember interviewing Barbara, or even meeting Barbara, before she asks Barbara for her help with the FBI investigation.

The only person at the Smithsonian who treats Barbara like someone worthy of their social time is Diana, and the two women end up becoming work friends. Barbara and Diana meet when Diana helps Barbara pick some paperwork that Barbara accidentally dropped out of a briefcase on a lobby floor at work. Barbara is desperate for a friend, so she asks Diana to lunch, but Diana says she’s too busy.

However, Diana and Barbara end up in the same room with the stolen treasures in the FBI investigation. And the two women find out that they both have a shared passion for ancient artifacts. The citrine stone is not considered one of the more valuable items, in terms of monetary value. And during their conversation, it’s mentioned that the legend of the stone is that it can grant one wish to the person who holds the stone. Diana holds the stone and silently wishes for Steve to come back to life.

Diana and Barbara have dinner together that day. And over dinner, they talk about their lives. Barbara is a stereotypical middle-aged spinster who lives alone, has no kids and has no love life. The only cliché about this lifestyle that Barbara doesn’t have is a pet cat. But she actually does become a “cat lady” later on in the story.

When Barbara asks Diana if she’s ever been in love, Diana tells her that she used to be in love with an American pilot, who died. Diana doesn’t give any further details, but she makes it clear that she’s still heartbroken and not ready to move on to someone else. Barbara is very insecure about her looks and her prospects of finding love, but Diana tries to give Barbara a confidence boost throughout their conversation.

Diana compliments Barbara by telling her that she’s one of the most natural and funniest people she’s ever met. Barbara is surprised because she’s not used to hearing flattering remarks about herself. She tells Diana, “People think I’m weird. They avoid me and talk about me behind my back and think I don’t hear them.”

After this friendly dinner, Barbara is walking through a park by herself and gives her dinner leftovers to a homeless man. And soon afterwards, a middle-aged drunk and disheveled man (played by Shane Attwooll) accosts her and tries to get her interested in him. Barbara rebuffs his advances and he gets physically aggressive with her. It’s about to turn into a full-blown assault, but Diana comes to the rescue and pushes the man away with such force that he’s thrown to the ground and becomes temporarily incapacitated. Barbara thanks Diana for helping her, and this incident further strengthens their trust in each other and their budding friendship.

When Barbara goes back to her office, she sees the citrine stone and holds it. She says out loud, “I do know what I wish for: I wish to be like Diana: strong, sexy, cool, special.” The stone glows and there’s a slight wind that passes through the air. These visual effects are kind of cheesy, but they work.

Diana goes home and finds out that Steve is there and he has been reincarnated in the body of an unnamed handsome man (played by Kristoffer Polaha), who seems to have no idea that his body is now inhabited by someone who died in 1918. The rest of the world sees the unnamed man as his actual physical self, but Diana only sees Steve when she looks at the man. And that explains why actor Pine is shown as Steve during this reincarnation. (It’s not a spoiler, since Steve’s return was already shown in the trailer for “Wonder Woman 1984.”)

Meanwhile, there’s a slick and sleazy business mogul named Maxwell “Max” Lord (played by Pedro Pascal) who’s all over TV with commercials for his company Black Gold Cooperative, which is described as “the first oil company by the people, for the people.” It should come as no surprise that this company and this mogul are not at all what they want people to think they are.

Maxwell’s real last name is Lorenzano, and its later revealed that he’s an ambitious Latino immigrant who changed his last name and appearance (he dyed his hair blonde) to appear more Anglo. He’s also a divorced father who has weekend visitations with his son Alistair (played by Lucian Perez), who’s about 7 or 8 years old. Maxwell is shown to be a very neglectful father, and his bad parenting is used as a “pull at your heartstrings” plot device in several scenes in the movie.

Maxwell finds out that the citrine stone is at the Smithsonian Museum. And so, he shows up at the museum one day, under the pretense of wanting to possibly donate millions of dollars to the department that has the stone. Barbara is immediately charmed by Maxwell’s flirtatious manner, while Diana is coolly skeptical.

Maxwell can see that Barbara is a lonely woman who’s desperate for attention, so he continues to flirt with her and makes it clear that he wants to date her. People who aren’t familiar with the “Wonder Woman” comic books can still easily figure out where the storyline is going to go with Barbara, because it’s similar to the more famous Catwoman story arc in DC Comics’ “Batman” series. And the trailer for “Wonder Woman 1984” already revealed the result of Barbara’s metamorphosis when there’s a showdown between her and Wonder Woman.

Not all of the action takes place in Washington, D.C., because there’s a subplot that takes Maxwell, Steve and Diana/Wonder Woman to Egypt, where an oil baron named Emir Said Bin Abydos (played by Amr Waked) has a pivotal role in the story. There are also many scenes that are supposed to take place simultaneously in different areas of the world, during the last third of the movie when the plot becomes a bit of a mess. “Wonder Woman 1984” falters when it becomes a little too much of a political statement about the nuclear arms race in the 1980s. The movie redeems itself when it focuses more on human interactions that are more relatable to everyday people.

The romance between Diana and Steve picks up right where it left off, but in “Wonder Woman 1984,” it’s more playful and amusing than it was in “Wonder Woman.” Steve’s culture shock of living in 1984 is used for great comical effect, as he marvels at 1984 fashion and other things that didn’t exist in 1918, such as escalators, breakdancing and computer-controlled planes. And the rampant materialism and capitalism that defined the 1980s in the United States are shown in not-so-subtle ways throughout the movie, as exemplified in everything from crowded shopping malls to the greedy villain Maxwell Lord.

Fans of Wonder Woman in the DC Comics, the 1970s movie series and as part of the DC Extended Universe will find plenty of things to like about “Wonder Woman 1984.” There are references that stay true to Wonder Woman canon, with a few tweaks here and there. (For example, in the comic books, Barbara Minerva is British, not American.)

And there’s a mention of Asteria, a legendary Amazon from Themyscira who was the first owner of the Golden Eagle armor that Wonder Woman wears in “Wonder Woman 1984.” It’s explained in the movie that Asteria sacrificed herself by wearing the armor while holding off the men who invaded Themyscira. Look for a cameo during the movie’s end credits that will delight a lot of Wonder Woman fans.

Gadot’s portrayal of Wonder Woman/Diana Prince can sometimes be a little wooden, but her best moments in the film are in expressing Diana’s grief over the death of Steve. At times, she looks more like a model playing dress-up as Wonder Woman rather than a bona fide action hero, but the visual effects go a long way in adding excitement to the action scenes. Gadot and Pine’s chemistry together isn’t very sexy or passionate, but it is fairly believable in their portrayal of two people who respect each other and were friends before they became lovers.

And for someone who died in 1918 (when women in the U.S. didn’t even have the right to vote), Steve is extremely enlightened in how quickly he adapts to feminist ideals of gender equality. He doesn’t feel threatened or act offended in situations where Diana/Wonder Woman has more abilities and greater strength than he does. At the same time, he doesn’t shrink from expressing his masculinity and showing his talent and skills.

It should come as no surprise that Steve gets to fly a modern plane. One of the best visual scenes in the film is when Steve and Diana fly in an invisible plane through a stunning display of Fourth of July fireworks. Nitpicky viewers will have to assume that the plane has an invisible shield to protect it from the firework explosions.

Because “Wonder Woman 1984” takes quite a bit of time developing the dramatic storylines for Barbara and Maxwell, there might not be as much action in the movie as some people might expect. Most of the suspense comes in the last third of the movie. To get to that point, viewers have to sit through seeing Maxwell become increasingly unhinged in an over-the-top way that often veers into being unintentionally comical.

Pascal’s portrayal of Maxwell as the chief villain is done in broad, over-the-top strokes. Viewers know from the beginning that he’s corrupt, and there’s almost no humanity in this character for most of the movie as he gets more and more maniacal. Wiig fares much better with her portrayal of the emotionally wounded and ultimately misguided Barbara. Her character can be viewed as a symbol of the negative effects of “silent bullying”: when people are treated as outcasts not by insults in their face but by being shunned and ignored.

It’s clear that the filmmakers of “Wonder Woman 1984,” just like the 2019 film “Joker,” wanted to have something more to say about society’s problems and international politics instead of being just another movie based on comic book characters. However, unlike “Joker,” which had an unrelenting but consistent dark and depressing tone, the tone of “Wonder Woman 1984” jumps over the place—and that inconsistency lowers the quality of the movie. Sometimes there’s nothing wrong with being a lighthearted superhero movie instead of trying to tackle heavy social issues. And sometimes “saving the world” in a superhero movie doesn’t mean you have to get bogged down in international politics over weapons of mass destruction.

“Wonder Woman 1984” was released in cinemas in various countries outside the U.S. on December 16, 2020. The movie’s U.S. release date in cinemas and on HBO Max is December 25, 2020. In the United Kingdom, “Wonder Woman 1984” is set for a VOD release on January 13, 2021.

Review: ‘Sonic the Hedgehog,’ starring James Marsden and Jim Carrey

February 15, 2020

by Carla Hay

Tika Sumpter, James Marsden and Sonic in "Sonic the Hedgehog"
Tika Sumpter, James Marsden and Sonic in “Sonic the Hedgehog” (Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures and Sega of America)

“Sonic the Hedgehog”

Directed by Jeff Fowler

Culture Representation: Set primarily in Montana and in San Francisco, the predominantly white cast of human characters in “Sonic the Hedgehog” (based on the Sega video game) mostly represent people who work in law enforcement or work for the government.

Culture Clash: An alien blue male hedgehog named Sonic that can travel at the freakishly fast pace of the speed of light tries to evade capture by the U.S. government, which wants to do experiments on him to find out why he has this special power.

Culture Audience: “Sonic the Hedgehog” will appeal primarily to fans of the video-game franchise and people who like children-oriented entertainment that has a formulaic and predictable story.

Jim Carrey in "Sonic the Hedgehog" (Photo by Doane Gregory)
Jim Carrey in “Sonic the Hedgehog” (Photo by Doane Gregory)

“Sonic the Hedgehog” is exactly the mediocre movie for kids that you would expect it to be. Based on the Sega video-game franchise whose popularity peaked in the 1990s, this is the first movie about Sonic the Hedgehog, a wisecracking blue hedgehog that comes from another planet and has the power to travel at the speed of light. In the movie (which combines live-action with animation), Sonic is an animated character voiced by Ben Schwartz, the comedian/actor who’s best known for playing Jean-Ralphio Saperstein on the NBC 2009-2015 sitcom “Parks and Recreation.”

Movies that are based on video games tend to be average-to-bad. Your brain will thank you if you never see “Super Mario Bros.,” “Assassin’s Creed,” “Warcraft” or most of the “Resident Evil” movies. And with the bar set very, very low for quality, “Sonic the Hedgehog” does little to raise that bar and instead rushes right under that bar with a flimsy story that’s predictable from beginning to end.

“Sonic the Hedgehog” is the first feature film for director Jeff Fowler, whose only previous movie-directing experience is a short film. The “Sonic the Hedgehog” screenplay was written by Patrick Casey and Josh Miller, whose previous writing experience has been in mostly TV and short films. That lack of feature-film experience shows, because the entire movie looks like it could’ve been a half-hour cartoon episode, but it’s instead stretched into a feature-length film with a thin plot and the budget of a major movie studio.

The beginning of the movie shows Sonic’s childhood in another dimension, where he was raised by a female guardian owl called Longclaw (voiced by Donna Jay Fulks). An apocalyptic disaster strikes their world, and Longclaw saves Sonic by opening up a portal to Earth. Longclaw gives Sonic a bag of magical gold rings, and tells Sonic that he has to live on Earth from now on, and the only way to stay safe is to stay hidden.

The gold rings will open an emergency portal to a deserted planet that has nothing but a terrain of planted mushrooms. Longclaw tells Sonic that he should go to this planet only as a last resort if things on Earth get too dangerous. For now, Earth is a better alternative, since at least Sonic won’t be alone on Earth.

Sonic ends up secretly living in a cave in the fictional small town of Green Hills, Montana. His presence is undetected except for an eccentric old man named Crazy Carl (played by Frank C. Turner), who’s seen Sonic and has been telling the townspeople that there’s a “blue devil” that lives in the town. He’s even drawn a picture of the “blue devil” and it looks a lot like Sonic. Naturally, the townspeople think Crazy Carl has fabricated the whole story, and they don’t take him seriously.

Meanwhile, Sonic (who tends to only come out at night) has been secretly spying on a married couple in town—police officer Tom Wachowski (played by James Marsden) and his veterinarian wife Maddie Wachowski (played by Tika Sumpter)—who have no kids and live a comfortable and happy life with their Golden Retriever dog. Sonic yearns to be a part of their family, but he can’t risk exposing himself because he knows that he will be captured and put into some kind of custody.

Tom is feeling restless and bored in Green Hills—his job consists primarily of monitoring a deserted road to try and catch speeding drivers—so he’s applied for and gotten a job at the San Francisco Police Department. An exciting day for him as a Green Hills Police Officer is when he sees a turtle on the road. One of Tom’s co-workers is a dim-witted cop named Wade (played by Adam Pally), whose only purpose in this movie is to both annoy Tom and alleviate some of Tom’s boredom.

One day, as Tom is watching the speed monitor in his police car, he notices a blue blur go by in a lightning flash, and the speed monitor has lit up to show that something passed by that was traveling at hundreds of miles per hour. However, Tom can’t see anything that he could investigate, so he assumes it was a malfunction of the speed monitor.

Sonic has the personality and energy of a mischievous teenager, so it isn’t long before the inevitable happens: Sonic makes his presence known. One night, while speeding, he causes an electrical light storm that results in a massive power outage in several states. The power is eventually restored, but the U.S. government gets involved to investigate what caused the blackout.

Meanwhile, Sonic realizes the disaster he has caused and fears that the authorities will catch him, so he leaves his home cave and is hiding in a shed in Tom’s backyard. Sonic has taken the bag of rings and opened the portal to try and hide out on the mushroom planet, when Tom sees Sonic and shoots him with a tranquilizer gun. In a panic, Sonic drops the bag of rings in the portal, but one ring is left behind.

Tom is also frightened by this strange creature, so he takes Sonic into his house, the tranquilizer wears off, and he’s shocked to see that it’s a talking hedgehog. Sonic tells Tom that he caused the power outage and begs Tom not turn him over to the authorities. Tom’s wife Maddie isn’t at home because she’s gone ahead to San Francisco to look for their new home and is temporarily staying with her sister Rachel (played by Natasha Rothwell), who’s a single mother to an elementary-school-aged daughter.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government has reluctantly enlisted the help of a genius scientist named Dr. Robotnik (played by Jim Carrey), who’s apparently the only person they know who they think can solve the mystery of the power outage. Dr. Robotnik has a history of being a mentally unstable egomaniac, so some of the government officials don’t like the idea that Robotnik has been brought on board to help them.

But they’re overruled, and Robotnik proceeds to take over the investigation, with a loyal and long-suffering henchman named Agent Stone (played by Lee Majdoub) as Robotnik’s right-hand man. Robotnik clashes with U.S. Army Major Bennington (played by Neal McDonough), who also wants to be the hero who gets credit for this mission. But, of course, Robotnik isn’t really a hero, since he has an ulterior motive to find the source of the problem, use it to gain more power, and then take over the world.

Through some of his high-tech inventions, Robotnik is able to track the energy source of the power outage to Tom’s home, where Robotnik immediately goes to investigate further. Tom reluctantly lets Robotnik into his home while Sonic tries to hide. Of course, Robotnik sees Sonic, and then tries and fails to capture him. Tom and Sonic escape, and they become fugitives of the law, with not only Robotnik after them but also various branches of the U.S. military. Robotnik also uses an army of flying drones to help track down the fugitives.

The rest of the movie is basically one long chase, as Tom and Sonic take a road trip to San Francisco, where Sonic figures that he can use the Transamerica Pyramid as a signal to open the portal again and retrieve his bag of magical rings. Even with this cartoonish and silly plot, the visual effects in “Sonic the Hedgehog” don’t make up for it, because the visuals aren’t very impressive, by today’s movie standards. This is the type of movie that would look dazzling back in the 1990s, but not now. And it’s not the kind of movie that someone needs to see in a movie theater.

As the chief villain, Carrey is clearly having a lot of fun in his campy Dr. Robotnik role, but the rest of the human characters are so basic and by-the-numbers that there really isn’t much to the movie except to see the inevitable showdown between Dr. Robotnik and the duo of Sonic and Tom. Children younger than the age of 10 will probably enjoy “Sonic the Hedgehog” the most, but everyone else will have to sit through the same recycled tropes that have been seen many times before in TV cartoons over the years.

Paramount Pictures released “Sonic the Hedgehog” in U.S. cinemas on February 14, 2020.

 

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.