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-