Horrible Bosses

© 2011 Ray Wong

I agree: the premise of Horrible Bosses is rather silly. On the other other hand, how many of us have ever fantasized about killing their bosses? So I guess it's really not that outrageous after all.

Nick (Jason Bateman), Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) and Dale (Charlie Day) are three best friends who all have horrible bosses respectively. Nick works at an investment firm under a sadistic egomaniac named Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey). After eight years of slaving for the firm and Harken, Nick is denied his promotion. Meanwhile, after Kurt's favorite boss Jack Pellit (Donald Sutherland) died, Pellit's no-good son Bobby (Colin Farrell) takes over and is running the company to the ground. And Dale is sexually harassed by his gorgeous boss Julia (Jennifer Aniston). According to Nick and Kurt, that should be a day in heaven except Dale is loyal to his fiance.

Frustrated by the lack of future prospects, the three friends talk of offing their respective bosses. One thing leads to another, and they decide to go through with it. They try to hire a professional hit-man, but instead they get an "advice": to kill each other's boss without raising suspicion, and to make the deaths look accidental.

So, the three musketeers go off to do some recon, to find information on their targets. They discover that Bobby is hooked on cocaine, and Harken is allergic to peanuts. Once they have a plan in mind, they decide to go through with it. But nothing is as simple as it sounds.

Jason Bateman (The Switch) is best when he plays snarky and cocky. Here, however, he plays a mild-mannered, considerate straight man of the trio, and he is constantly upstaged by his costars. Even during his more "explosive" scenes, he's outshone by better actors such as Spacey. Jason Sudeikis (Hall Pass) plays pretty much the same character he's been playing: the good-hearted but horny Average Joe. But he does it so well that I'm afraid he'll be typecast for a long time. Charlie Day (Going the Distance) is hilarious as Dale, but his frantic, moronic antics get a bit annoying after a while. More often than not I just want to scream: "Get a hold of yourself, Stupid."

The bosses, on the other hand, all relish in their evilness. Kevin Spacey (Casino Jack) is particularly smarmy and showy as Nick's sadistic boss; he steals every scene he's in. Jennifer Aniston (The Switch) is never better as the saucy, scheming and sex-crazy bitch. I think she's found her calling (forget about all those lame romantic comedies, Jen). Colin Farrel (Crazy Heart) dons a ridiculous combover wig and fake belly to play the repulsive Bobby Pellit to great effect. Too bad he doesn't have nearly enough scenes.

Notable cameos include Donald Sutherland (The Eagle) as Kurk's sweet boss, Jamie Foxx (Due Date) as a hit-man, Ioan Gruffudd (W) as "Wetwork Man," and Bob Newhart (Elf) as Nick's new boss.

Written by a trio of TV writers (Michael Markowitz, John Fracis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein), the script is surprisingly sophisticated (for a broad comedy). The premise is rather silly: who in the right mind would actually carry out a murder plan just to get rid of their bosses? However, the writers try to make it plausible with various degrees of success. We can, for example, sympathize with Nick for wanting to kill the Devil that is Dave Harken, but Kurt and Dale's motives are murky and unconvincing. Certainly there are other ways for them to deal with their annoying bosses.

The plot is coherent up to a point, then it gets somewhat repetitive and annoying as well. Basically, it's about three incompetent would-be killers doing really stupid things. After a while, it gets tiresome. Stupid people are fun to watch but only for a while. You'd want them to do something at least halfway decent to redeem themselves. At the end of the day, they rely on someone else to save the day. That doesn't really sit well with me. We want heroes, however reluctant, and not just morons who happen to luck out at the end. Granted, there are some hilarious scenes and situations, and the cast seems to have a great time making this. They have a good rapport with one another.

Seth Gordon's (Four Christmases) direction is slick and professional. He moves the plot along in a brisk pace, and there's enough character development (for a comedy) to make us care. Still, his skillful direction can't lift the material from the contrived plot. There are elements that don't really work for me: murky motivation, unreasonable reactions, and illogical plot twists, all for moving the plot along. Even for a comedy, I need some believability.

Still, Horrible Bosses is an enjoyable diversion during a season of big-budget CGI extravaganzas (next up: the very last Harry Potter). It's crude, rude, and funny in spots. It pales compared to the far-superior Bridesmaids, but for the giggly teenage boys and mens who act like boys, and those who like to watch them, this is far from horrible.

Stars: Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, Charlie Day, Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston, Colin Farrel
Director: Seth Gordon
Writers: Michael Markowitz, John Francis Daley, Jonathan M. Goldstein
Distributor: Warner Bros.
MPAA Rating: R for crude and sexual content, pervasive language and drug use
Running Time: 100 minutes


Script – 7
Performance – 7
Direction – 8
Cinematography – 7
Music/Sound– 7
Editing – 8
Production – 7

Total – 7.3 out of 10

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