Review: Horrible Bosses

A story of average guys who become small-time crooks always has comedic value; add to that the blue-collar motivation of wanting to kill your boss because he/she makes your life miserable? Golden. Documentary director Seth Gordon (“The King of Kong”) ropes up an impressive ensemble to make “Horrible Bosses,” a vaguely dark comedy with a concept that does half the work. Despite a slightly addled plot, the film offers a variety of laughs from the R-rated sex humor of many of today’s comedies to more standard slapstick.

Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis star as a trio of friends who despise their bosses for one reason or another. Bateman’s the first to arrive and last to leave work every day to get a promotion after eight years, but his asshole boss (Spacey) plays him like a puppet; Day’s a dental assistant with plans to be married, but his nymphomaniac boss (Jennifer Aniston) plans to blackmail him into sleeping with her; Sudeikis, on the other hand, loves his job, but when his great boss dies, his soulless coke-head son (Colin Farrell) takes over and looks to ruin everything out of spite. After first joking about taking them out, the three realize they’ll be eternally miserable if they don’t do something drastic.

The three amigos have a classic comic chemistry; they’re all idiots in their own respects, namely Day and Sudeikis, which is weird because Bateman — a terrific character actor — has suddenly become the face of the straight-laced everyman. Although we sympathize with Bateman the most, he offers the least amount of entertainment. Sudeikis and Day on the other hand offer dynamic humor. Day’s the most lovable as he exercises that doe-eyed stupidity and cluelessness whereas Sudeikis gets to be the jerk who puts sex ahead of everything and thinks he has tact when in fact he’s incredibly ignorant. The Stooge-like function of their friendship provides most of the humor, though sometimes the slapstick diverges a bit from the tone of the story.

As far as the bosses, all three come off as horrible as they need to for the story to work. Spacey earns points for being particularly despicable and as such gets most of the boss spotlight whereas Aniston earns the most laughs for playing against type. Farrell is practically unrecognizable, which delivers in a couple places, but mostly the script takes the character way over the top.

I would’ve loved to have seen the Coen brothers script this comedy as not only does it perfectly suit their proclivities, but it also would’ve found some true wit and poignancy amidst the murder-plotting chaos. “Horrible Bosses” does well enough for the sake of humor and shows flashes of cleverness throughout such as the way Jamie Foxx’s “Mother****er” Jones” gets involved as a “murder consultant,” but the plot has a hard time wrapping up in a satisfying way. Toward the end, the film struggles in determining whether to head down the darker path or take the lighter more farcical one. Instead of choosing, however, the story never fully commits to either.

In general, the schizophrenic tone and tendency to pin turning points on the stupidity of the characters doesn’t outweigh the comic performances. Although we never get deeper than the characters’ personality traits and a motivation to kill their bosses, it’s enough of a portrait to take away some hardy laughs as well as interest in what will happen to them. Lastly, the killer (no pun intended) premise provides enough reason to take a vested interest in the final outcome.

3.5/5 Stars

Horrible Bosses
Directed by Seth Gordon
Written by Michael Markowitz, John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein
Starring: Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston


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