Horrible Bosses (Review)
A very brisk and raunchy screenplay coupled with engaging performances and fantastic chemistry between everyone involved make Horrible Bosses one of the better comedies of the year.
Horrible Bosses, directed by Seth Gordon, opens by discussing everyone’s primal fear (and for many, reality), of the soul-crushing mediocrity of a job that sucks. Everyone has, or did have, some job that they hated, whether for the hours, the duties, or, for the reason this movie targets, the employers. Better start counting your blessings, however, because the sadistic supervisors of Horrible Bosses make any job instantly desirable by comparison.
The three sad saps at the center of Horrible Bosses are Nick (Jason Bateman), a depressingly hardworking cubicle dweller desperate for a promotion, Kurt (Jason Sudekis), a womanizing accountant for a family-owned chemical company, and Dale (Charlie Day), a convicted sex offender (but not for the reason you might think) who works as a dental assistant for lack of being able to get any other job. What of these men’s bosses? Nick, potentially the worst-off of the group, finds himself under the ruthless rule of Jack Harken (Kevin Spacey), who threatens his underlings, insults employees in crowded rooms, and laughs in Nick’s face when Nick mentions his deceased grandmother. Kurt is initially very happily employed under a kind-hearted boss (Donald Sutherland), but instantly finds himself in hell once the old man keels over and gets replaced by his bizarre coke-head jerk of a son, Bobby Pellitt(Colin Farrell), who is concerned with nothing more than maximizing profits by any means so he can cash it all in and retire, even if it means endangering others through unsafe practices. Finally, Dale, happily engaged, is at the mercy of an alarming amount of sexual harrassment by Julia (Jennifer Anison), a woman so sleazy it baffles the imagination (she demands that they have sex and use the gassed-up patient between them as a bed). The men decide that their bosses need to die, so they hire a man named Jones (Jamie Foxx). His first name is itself an expletive, but this “murder consultant” suggests that they kill each other’s bosses–no easy feat, considering the massive ineptitude and naivety of the trio.
The film works as well as it does because of Spacey’s, Farrell’s, and Aniston’s relentless dedication to being three of the biggest scumbags in a film in years. Each actor relishes his or her opportunity to be as shockingly evil and depraved as possible, pushing their deplorable character traits to the limit: Spacey as pure evil, Farrell as a massive tool, and Aniston sporting the most voracious sexual appetite I have ever seen in a movie. They operate as caricatures of bad bosses and the scenes in which they appeared were among the most energetic in the film. Aniston in particular is shockingly, hilariously vulgar, but all three are a pure joy to watch. To their credit, Bateman, Sudekis, and Day are also fantastic. Naturally, each actor plays to their respective strengths: Bateman is, as always, the exasperated voice of reason that he perfected on Arrested Development. He’s typecast once again but somehow his shtick never gets old. Similarly, Charlie Day plays a slightly more low-key version of his lovably idiotic character on It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. Sudekis retains the roguish charm that most of his Saturday Night Live characters possess. These three play off of each other marvelously. The comedic timing and chemistry between these three leading men and their bosses, as well as between them and Jamie Foxx’s character of Mr. Jones, is brilliant.
Horrible Bosses dabbles in many styles of comedy without ever moving too far over the top in each. There are plenty of instances of the trio slapping each other in the face (summoning memories of the Three Stooges), situational humor shows up every now and then, and there are even a small handful of gags intended for shock value. None of these overstay their welcome and all of them make appearances at just the right time. The main source of humor is in the excellent screenplay, which utilizes very brisk exchanges and punchlines to great effect. There’s also ample use of improvised dialogue, and when the three main actors all come from television programs that encourage the style, the end result is natural, engaging, and hilarious. The screenplay does dip into some tired gags and, yes, does use the old deus ex machina trick at the end (which can be spotted from a mile away), but those are a couple of small missteps in what is otherwise a razor-sharp script.
It’s incredibly refreshing to see a comedy that doesn’t play it safe; too often, studios vying for maximum profit push restrictions and cuts on their films to get a PG-13 comedy that anyone can pay for and watch. The Hangover proved that the hard-R comedy can be profitable, and opened the floodgates for more. Horrible Bosses is delightfully depraved, playing to all the strengths of its parade of enormously talented players as well as utilizing the freedom of the Restricted rating without becoming a constant barrage of vulgarity. A near-perfect cocktail of comedic styles, as well as some of the best chemistry I’ve seen between actors in a comedy in years, make Horrible Bosses the comedy to beat this year.
Score: **** 1/2 (out of 5)
Rated: R for crude and sexual content, pervasive language and some drug material