I’m tempted to call “Horrible Bosses” a dark comedy, but it’s just too silly to be anything but a goofball comedy. It has a sharp, dark edge, but its main characters are likable idiots, and except for one scene of violence, it tries to make you laugh in nearly every shot. Even when it reaches the somewhat shocking violence, I think it wants you to laugh at the situation and how the characters arrived there.
Directed by Seth Gordon (“The King of Kong”), the film has been called a bit of a mess, but the plot follows a simple premise that serves as catalyst for populist catharsis and a series of gags featuring comedic talents having a blast. Three friends try to kill their horrible bosses, because they fear quitting and looking for another job during the recession, apparently, more than they fear getting charged with murder. It’s not believable, but who hasn’t wished a horrible boss would just go away? Nick Hendricks (Jason Bateman) works a miserable office job, and his boss is a sadistic jerk played by Kevin Spacey. Kurt Buckman (Jason Sudeikis) has to deal with a cokehead maniac, played by Colin Ferrell, who inherits a chemical plant after his father (Donald Sutherland) dies of a heart attack. Dale Arbus (Charlie Day) is a dental assistant who has to constantly dodge sexual assaults from his boss, played by Jennifer Aniston, who looks better than ever here. Needless to say, Arbus gets the least amount of sympathy from his friends, but together they clumsily hatch a plan to kill each other’s bosses, aided by an assumed veteran criminal named Mr. Jones (Jamie Foxx).
While the film mostly feels like an aimless excuse for a series of gags, the plot sort of comes together in a sort of clever way near the end, in the aforementioned violent scene. The reason to see the film, though, is the comedic chemistry between Day, Bateman, and Sudeikis. They are all consistently funny in their own individual ways, and their personalities are so mismatched that they make for an awkward, satisfying blend. Charlie Day (“It’s Always Sunny inPhiladelphia”), in particular, not only goes toe-to-toe with his more experienced co-stars, but he often upstages them. The supporting cast is just as strong. It doesn’t hurt that Spacey, Aniston, and Ferrell can all be very funny when they want to, and they get to go wild here. They all seem to have fun and relish their roles, and that fun is infectious.
Probably my biggest complaint is out of the three main characters, none of them work a retail job, and that is a missed opportunity. If you think an office job can be bad, you have no idea. It’s a sector that could have provided even more laughs, and one with which a majority of the audience could have identified.
Making a comedy about murder is nearly as tricky as murder itself, but “Horrible Bosses” hits the sweet spot and understands how to approach the material. If you want to see a great comedy with heart, coherence, and length, see “Bridesmaids,” which is probably still playing in theaters, months after its release. “Horrible Bosses,” on the other hand, is a breezy 100 minutes in comparison, and it just wants to make you laugh. It probably has more laughs and cable replay value than “Bridesmaids,” too. The title cards describing the bosses alone are funnier than the biggest laughs in many comedies, and the subject matter and sloppy nature of the film can’t negate that. The cast elevates everything and makes the film worth the price of admission. A great cast can’t save a bad script or director, but it can do magic with the average.
4 out of 5
“Horrible Bosses” was reviewed on the latest episode of Movie Dudes.