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Saturday, July 9, 2011

‘Horrible Bosses’, Great Cast, Funny Movie

Horrible Bosses: 3 ½ out of 5
Bobby:  I need you to trim some of the fat around here.
Kurt:  What do you mean, “trim some of the fat?”
Bobby:  I want you to fire the fat people.  They’re lazy, and they’re slow, and they make me sad to look at.
It has been a solid year so far for original, R-rated comedies.  While not every film has been a homerun, I do enjoy the fact that we are being treated to a lot of good, raunchy fun, as opposed to watered-down versions of films followed by the inevitable “unrated” edition 3-4 months later.  Horrible Bosses joins in on the fun, becoming one of the best-casted comedies so far this year.  Often times you have too many great elements in one project and it can become a mess, but what a film like this certainly benefits from is having a great cast, with the three leads making the best of their great chemistry together.  While the film does not fully deliver on the potential of its premise, I did laugh a lot throughout and enjoyed what this film managed to deliver, thanks in large part to its killer cast.

Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, and Jason Sudeikis star as three average guys, friends, and all subjects of terrible work environments when it comes to their bosses.  Nick (Bateman) works for a financial firm, which is headed by his slave driver of a boss, Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey), who constantly abuses him.  Dale (Day) works as a dental assistant to Julia (Jennifer Aniston), who goes far beyond the line when it comes to sexual harassment.  Kurt (Sudeikis) is subjected to the off-the-wall behavior of cocaine-addicted Bobby (Colin Farrell), who has been recently promoted to the head of the chemical plant Kurt works for, following the death of Bobby’s father. 

With each of these men being seemingly pushed to their limits by their horrible bosses, “what if”-type discussion leads to an actual consideration of plotting to have each boss murdered.  Following a visit to a bar in the bad part of town, where the boys receive some expensive murder brainstorming advice from a former criminal, Dean “Motherf-er” Jones (Jaime Foxx), plans start getting set in motion.  Stakeouts are plan, intel is found, and it will come down to how capable these guys are if they actually want commit some dirty deeds.


So I had a lot of fun with this movie, which is mainly due to the work of Bateman, Day, and Sudeikis as a team.  These are some funny guys doing funny things on screen with each other.  They certainly feel like friends who have known each other and know how to play on each other’s comic sensibilities.  Bateman is a master at selling deadpan lines, “I don’t win a lot.”  Sudeikis is likable and has enough one-liners to keep his milk toast character enjoyable.  And Day gets plenty of kudos from me, because I find him genuinely amusing and I love that he has gone from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia to a big summer comedy (he’s the wild card).

Furthermore, the cast is benefited by the three actors portraying the titular horrible bosses.  While two out of three of them are not given nearly as much to do, I did enjoy each of these performances.  Kevin Spacey is no stranger to this type of role, which he has previously played brilliantly in Swimming with Sharks, but he once again gets a chance to shine as the intimidating, abusive, psychotic boss.  Aniston has a lot of fun playing against type as a sexual deviant of sorts.  Considering that I generally find Aniston to be boring on film, anything that can have me enjoying her presence is certainly a plus and this film delivers on that, in addition to her sex appeal.  And then you have Colin Farrell playing this disgusting cokehead character, with a ridiculous comb-over.  He totally goes for it and does not nearly get enough screentime, but still gets to do a lot with a little.


The film was directed by Seth Gordon, who has been recently directing episodes of some of the best comedies on TV, but really made a splash back in 2007 with the wonderful documentary, The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters.  Here he gets the chance to head up a big studio film, with a seemingly no-holds barred script by Michael Markowitz, John Francis Daley (heads up Freaks & Geeks fans), and Jonathon M. Goldstein.  As a result, this is a quick-paced comedy that does little to add depth to any of these characters, in favor of keeping things breezy, raunchy, and always hopping from joke to joke.  It is quite effective, as there is very little downtime and the film manages to pack in many laughs throughout.

Of the few gripes I did end up having in what is ostensibly a very fun feature, the main one revolves around how it portrays the stakes of the film.  Instead of venturing into darker or more nuanced territory, the film decides to stay in its over-the-top comedy world, where nothing truly matters and it is simply about watching a cast of funny people have fun.  This is not necessarily a bad thing and it more comes down to wishing for things that this movie is not, which I don’t believe to be the best way to judge.  The film is what it is, but I still feel that the stakes in a film that revolves around its heroes murdering their superiors needed to be higher.


The other problem I had was with the lack of any exploration of these characters, particularly the bosses played by Aniston and Farrell.  I think this more comes down to how to best handle the running time on a film like this, but I would have loved to delve more into the lives of these other bosses than the Spacey character, who gets the lion’s share of screentime.  Spacey’s character may have the most relatable elements (despite how entirely fictional this whole thing is), but the other bosses were far more interesting. 

Regardless, the key thing to take away from this, as far as I am concerned, is that Horrible Bosses is a very funny movie.  It contains a lot of great moments and lines throughout, boasts a really solid cast, and is not afraid to get dirty and embrace its R rating.  There is not a lot of room for heart in this film, nor any real sharper edge as far as the humor goes, but the laughs come fast and often, which is a benefit overall.

Nick:  You know that last month you made me work so late that I missed saying goodbye to my gam gam.
Harken:  I’m sorry.
Nick: Thank you.
Harken:  I had no idea…*laughs*…that you called your grandmother “gam gam”.

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