Review: Horrible Bosses

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There seems to be a trend at the multiplexes now–the R-rated comedy is back. This summer we’ve seen Bridesmaids, The Hangover 2 and now Horrible Bosses do good business.

The premise of Horrible Bosses is simple, and I suppose universal–it’s only the self-employed or luckiest of us who has never had one. Three chums each have a horror story at work. Jason Bateman works for a sadist, Kevin Spacey. Charlie Day is a dental hygienist who works for a dentist, Jennifer Aniston, who blatantly harasses him sexually (this is a bad thing because he is in love with his fiancee). Jason Sudeikis loves his boss, but when he dies his cretinous son (Colin Farrell) takes over.

As they compare notes they decide to try to hire a hit man to kill their respective bosses. They head to the bad part of town and find Jamie Foxx, who won’t do the job, but will “consult.” He suggest the Strangers on a Train gambit–they should kill each other’s bosses.

This is a good idea for a movie, but fails consistently. There is plenty of blame to go around. To start, the director, Seth Gordon, shows no flair for comic pacing. The film just kinds of lays there, like a dead fish. Scenes drag on for too long and have no sparkle. This should have been a fast-paced farce, but instead plays like a drama.

The screenplay, by three credited writers, is also full of dead spots, and works much too hard to be crude, almost snickering like Beavis and Butt-head as it makes jokes about sex and bodily fluids. I found the whole Aniston thing way over the top. I suppose boys who grew up lusting after Rachel on Friends may get a tingle by hearing her say “I want you to fuck my mouth,” but it has all the wit of a whoopee cushion (it’s interesting that a woman harassing a man is comic, while the opposite would be creepy beyond measure).

Finally, the cast just doesn’t work. The bosses are okay–Aniston certainly has made a departure from the dreary rom-coms she’s made lately, and seems game for anything, and Spacey simply recycles the agent he played in Swimming With the Sharks. But Farrell is a delight. He sports the world’s worst comb over and hides his roguish Irish charm behind a truly repellent character. But again, the writers go over the top when we see his apartment, which Sudeikis calls “inside the mind of an asshole.”

The three leads are a bigger problem. Bateman and Sudeikis are too bland by half, and Day, who seems to be playing the Zach Galifianakis role, over compensates to the point of supreme irritation. For one thing, there’s no particular reason why Aniston would lust after him (if the role had been played by a sweet-natured hunk it would have worked better–Day is short and squirrelly).

The film isn’t a total disaster. I chuckled a few times when the dialogue manages to reach a more effervescent level, especially in the scenes with the three leads and Foxx, who comes off unscathed (his name is “Motherfucker” Jones, and thus the leads call him, properly, Motherfucker).

But on the whole I found Horrible Bosses messy and dreary. I’m not down on crude comedies–Animal House and Bad Santa are the cream of the crop, but they were made by people who knew what they were doing. Not so with Horrible Bosses.

My rating for Horrible Bosses: C-

About Jackrabbit Slim

Location: Vegas, Baby! I’m much older than the other whippersnappers here, a baby boomer. I tend to be more snobbish about film, disdaining a lot of the multiplex fare for “cinema.” My favorite films: Woody Allen’s oeuvre (up until about 1990), The Godfather, The Graduate, A Hard Day’s Night, Pulp Fiction. Politics: Well, George McGovern was my political hero. I’m also a prickly atheist. Occupation: Poised to be an English teacher in Las Vegas. For many years I was an editor at Penthouse Magazine. My role on this blog seems to be writing lots of reviews and being the resident Oscar maven.

10 responses »

  1. and find Jamie Foxx, who won’t do the job, but will “consult.”

    Just this makes me laugh.
    Have to see this one.

  2. boys who grew up lusting after Rachel on Friends may get a tingle by hearing her say “I want you to fuck my mouth,”

    YES.

  3. I quite liked the movie. Not great, but pretty funny. The audience I saw it with ate it up – viewers from 20’s to 70’s. My mom loves comedies, but rarely laughs out loud – it’s just this weird thing with her – well, she laughed out loud a lot at this.

    I personally laughed more at Bridesmaids, which I was disappointed with, and Hangover II, which was a disturbing film, but I liked this better. It’s more likable and gratifying. And I didn’t think of it as that crude. Yeah – there’s some gross sex talk but no tranny sex (Hangover II) or shitting in a sink (Bridesmaids).

    The best part to me was the easy chemistry of the three leads, which is hard to come by. They seem like buddies. Day tries a bit too hard at times, but Bateman and Sudeikis nail it for my money. Foxx also supplies some solid laughs.

    The biggest fault I found with the movie is the under-use of Ferrell. He was so good, but due partially to the machinations of the plot – doesn’t get nearly as much screen time as the other bosses. I’d like to see a whole movie dedicated to him.

    Best R-rated comedy of the summer IMO. Certainly better than the disgusting Hangover Part II and the unlikable downer Bridesmaids.

    B

  4. BTW – not that this is an indicator of quality – it’s all marketing and concept, but I don’t recall the last time I’ve seen a theater so full. I was in there over 15 minutes before showtime and there weren’t two seats together anywhere but the front section – which got nearly full itself. And the movie was playing on two screens – showtimes about an hour apart. That’s when I knew I wouldn’t be scoring that bonus point.

  5. As tired as I am of self-proclaimed ‘outrageous’ comedies, this seems interesting enough to see when it’s released here.

    As an aside, when I first saw that poster I thought the woman was Amanda Donohoe (at least if she looked the same as she did in ‘Liar Liar’).

  6. Very generous.
    Again, I refer people to the beginning of the boardroom scene in Liar Liar for my thoughts on this -redacted-.

  7. I’m not altogether sure why Jeanine and I decided to go see this last night, but I have to agree with Jackrabbit Slim on all issues besides Farrell, who I thought was pointlessly grotesque, and Sudeikis, who comes across OK.

    I feel like Jason Bateman has the same reaction to everything that ever happens in the movies he’s in. He’s the most boring, most predictable actor I can think of right now, especially for someone who’s always in comedies.

  8. Regardless of what the trailers may well lead you to think, most of the time inside of the film really isn’t spent establishing the murders. Rather, the jokes are discovered inside the idea, giving the 3 actors a lot of time to entertain you. You happen to be not watching 3 guys plot to murder their bosses; you are watching three guys ponder the plot of the best way to murder their bosses. There’s a fine distinction here, and the script does a terrific job of establishing the variation.

  9. Liked it a bit more than most here, but agree this was a disappointment and a misfire.

    Started off well when the focus was on the bosses – particularly enjoyed Spacey’s performance and the scene where he announces who has got the promotion.

    But once the three employees decided on their scheme it spluttered and went flat. The scenes where they went inside various houses of their bosses should’ve been comic highlights but were largely wasted – couldn’t they have thought of anything better than a character putting toiletry products up his backside?

    An underlying reason why the film fell away was that it was never convincing the main trio would try such a scheme, and the narrative got increasingly slapdash from there.

    Have to agree with Brian and JS about Bateman – I’ve enjoyed his work in supporting roles previously but as the lead he was just an empty void. Sudekis was a bit better but rather dull. Quite liked Day.

    I didn’t dislike the film and thought it was tolerable, but it should’ve been so much better. I’d rate it a C+

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