Title: Horrible Bosses
Directed By: Seth Gordon
Starring: Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston, Colin Farrell, Jamie Foxx
Sure, all comedies should be funny, but, let’s face it, what comedy is really that funny that it can keep you laughing for a full 90 minutes? This tends to be a bit of a pitfall with the genre; writers have joke tunnel vision and then, when that tunnel collapses, we’re left with a neglected story that leaves us checking our watches until the next funny gag arrives. In the case of Horrible Bosses, however, the story and consistent tone of the film, take the form of a robust safety net, catching up when a joke falls through and bouncing us right back into the action.
Think your boss is tough? Nick (Jason Bateman) is a long-time, dedicated employee who’s long overdue for a promotion. Too bad his boss, Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey), is a power happy lunatic who enjoys dashing Nick’s hopes and dreams. Then there’s Dale (Charlie Day), a soon-to-be-married dental assistant who suffers the wrath of Dr. Julia Harris (Jennifer Anniston), a boss who enjoys gassing her patients into oblivion so she can continue her effort to get a piece of Dale’s you-know-what. Meanwhile, over at the Pellit family chemical business, the super sweet papa Pellit (Donald Sutherland) is out, leaving his drug addict of a son, Bobby (Colin Farrell), to reign supreme and make poor Kurt’s (Jason Sudeikis) life miserable.
Thanks to the economy, blackmail and superiority complexes, ditching their jobs isn’t an option, so Nick, Dale and Kurt go for the next best choice, killing their bosses. In an effort to do the deed and actually get away with it, the guys hire a professional (Jamie Foxx) to take care of business for them. However, things get complicated when their hitman refuses to pull the trigger himself, rather instruct his costumers on how to take care of their problems themselves.
One thing Horrible Bosses has going for it from beginning to end is that director Seth Gordon knows exactly what he wants in terms of tone and manages to keep it incredibly steady, a major asset for a comedy. When a joke fails or the plot trails off into overly absurd territory, the tone holds strong and, therefore, so does the world Gordon created.
This achievement gives the viewer something else to latch onto aside from the film’s humor, which comes in handy, as roughly half of the gags are funny. Then again, that doesn’t mean the other half are complete failures. Perhaps the breakdown comes out to one part tasteless nonsense, two parts laugh to yourself and one part so amusing, it’ll make you cry. If you’re on the lookout for a member of the latter group, keep an eye out for a cat and a hilarious rendition of The Ting Tings’ “That’s Not My Name.”
While the writing from Michael Markowitz, John Francis Daley (yes, Sam Weir from Freaks and Geeks) and Jonathan M. Goldstein is above average for the genre, it reaps the benefits of having an absolutely perfect cast. As much as Harken, Julia and Bobby are very much total caricatures of nightmare bosses one might find in the real working world (or so I hope), they all exhibit very relatable behavior, making them the slightest bit authentic. But, of course, this is a comedy and Spacey, Aniston and Farrell know it. The trio of horrible bosses pushes their characters so far over the edge, they become quite predictable. However, oddly enough, this predictability winds up working in their favor as rather than dread what you know is coming your way, you’re looking forward to it. Just before the cycle of jumping from boss to boss becomes monotonous, the writers throw in a few twists that are impressively surprising.
As for our leading men, Bateman, Sudeikis and Day really do make for perfect trio. Their characters’ personalities are established right from the start – Bateman’s Nick is the straight guy just trying to make an honest living, Sudeikis’ Kurt wants the same, but is easily sidetracked by the ladies and Day’s Dale is a little on the goofy side. Each character has something different to offer, making the first portion of the film, during which we bounce from workplace to workplace, setting the scenes, endlessly fresh. Then, when the group unites to take us through the second and third acts of the film, their chemistry is magnetic. These types of roles come so naturally to all three as we’ve seen them take similar parts before, Bateman in Extract, Sudeikis in Hall Pass and Day in Going the Distance, just to name a few. Sure Day’s voice travels into the grating register once in a while, but overall, the guys keep their performance in the confines of ridiculously amusing yet frankly endearing.
Horrible Bosses isn’t all-around hilarious, but it benefits big time from simply being a well made movie. Minus the writers’ desperate attempt to rush and wrap up the plot in a matter of minutes and Jamie Foxx’s forgettable inclusion, the story is rather well structured with some likable characters and some comically loathsome ones, combining to make for a wholly enjoyable experience.
By Perri Nemiroff