Charlie Day, Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston, Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell, Jamie Foxx and Donald Sutherland
John Francis Daley (Screenplay), Jonathan M. Goldstein (Screenplay), Michael Markowitz (Story)
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If you've ever been that corporate slave whose forsaken a personal life, or for that matter simply sex or sleep, in the name of climbing the corporate ladder only to see everything go up in a puff of smoke thanks to a narcissistic, sadistic blood-sucking boss, then Horrible Bosses is likely to make you giggle profusely.
You needn't have ever fantasized about actually killing, or even destroying the career, of said boss. You need merely to have been, at some point in your professional career, under the control of a totally freakin' psychotic boss who seemed to have a gleam in their eyes as they told you for the 13th weekend in a row that you'd be working through the weekend. Oh, and there'd be no extra pay, of course.
Think Office Space with a Bad Santa edge. While Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda played this scenario for good-hearted laughs in 9 to 5, the laughs in Horrible Bosses are mostly of the more demented variety courtesy of three generally likable shmucks who can't seem to get a break despite doing all the right things.
Nick (Jason Bateman) is one of those "in before sunrise, out way after dark" corporate middle manager types whose loyalty and hard work is taken advantage of by his boss, Mr. Harken (Kevin Spacey), who has been leading him around on a leash for months with an implied major promotion. Needless to say, things don't quite work out as Nick expects.
Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) is well on his way to the top of a chemical company and working in an ideal situation where employer and employee are both members of a mutual adoration society. Then, the boss suffers an untimely demise and his greedy cokehead son, Bobby (Colin Farrell), takes over.
Dale (Charlie Day) has a seemingly ideal job working as a dental assistant for Dr. Julia Harris (Jennifer Aniston), a hottie whose idea of office decorum and professional is, well, nonexistent. While his buddies can't quite fathom what's so awful about being harassed by a beautiful and successful woman, Dale is happily engaged to Stacy (Lindsay Sloane) who has managed to put his life mostly back together after a relatively innocent choice landed him on the sex offender registry.
While Horrible Bosses is neither as dark nor as funny as Bad Santa, the film is unquestionably the darkest and funniest mainstream, wide release comedy to hit theaters in quite some time. While Bridesmaids aimed to be edgy, Horrible Bosses far surpasses that otherwise entertaining film with its consistently balls to the walls humor and willingness to offend everyone from gays to blacks to the disabled to blondes to white men and the list goes on and on.
Our trio of leading actors are perfectly cast as sort laid back everyday joes who have been pushed just far enough to go way over the edge. This is likely the kind of humor that Jason Bateman thought he was signing up for when he made Mike Judge's Extract, a film that tried but ultimately failed to find an edge or an audience. Bateman has a marvelous ability to simultaneously sell normalcy and lunacy, and here he manages to make the idea of killing a boss or drag racing a Prius or showing up in the worst neighborhood in town just to find a hit man seem all completely normal.
I don't care how predictable it is - outlandish normal, when perfectly acted, is almost always freakishly funny. You can easily argue that Horrible Bosses is a rather predictable flick with a rather lame concept. It's also very, very funny for the majority of the film.
This may be yet another film, however, where the supporting players are darn near as successful as our leading players with Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston and Colin Farrell all hitting it out of the ballpark. While we've seen Spacey play nutzo psychotic before, seldom has he done so with such tremendous comic success. Farrell? He's absolutely brilliant here with such a godawful comb-over hairdo that for a few minutes you'll be sitting here going "Is that Colin Farrell?"
Then, there's Jennifer Aniston. Our "good girl" goes incredibly naughty here, and you're left wondering "Why hasn't she done it before?" Aniston doesn't just sexually harass, she practically dominates the poor guy into submission. This is most definitely a side of Aniston we haven't seen on screen, and it's a side you'll want to see again. And again.
In fairness to what will undoubtedly be a large number of naysayers, Horrible Bosses does pull back at times and never quite goes for the jugular with its humor. There are too many times when director Seth Gordon opts for playful rather than genuinely dark and biting. Jamie Foxx, despite the novelty of his role as a "murder consultant," feels a tad wasted here given the potential out-of-control potential that could have occurred given the urban setting. Julie Bowen and Donald Sutherland are also woefully under-utilized.
Despite its flaws, Horrible Bosses is a terrific option for those seeking an adults only comedy this weekend to counter all the sci-fi geekfests going on and the ooey gooey center of Larry Crowne. Lately, it seems like it's a rarity that a comedy actually contains more than a few genuine laughs. While Horrible Bosses isn't quite a non-stop laughfest, it's a consistently funny, dark, entertaining and outrageous option for those who thought Hangover 2 and Bridesmaids were a bit soft.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic