Horrible Bosses is a consistently funny tale of three disgruntled workers trying to off their bosses. It’s a Three Stooges routine, more or less, and plenty crude. While the idea seems to qualify as a black comedy, the execution just feels too darn nice. It’s virtually impossible not be reminded of 1994’s Swimming with Sharks, a darker, meaner version of the same story. That film went for the throat; this one goes for the belly. Thanks to three strong leads and some clever casting, Horrible Bosses skates by as a passable summer comedy.
Nick (Bateman), Dale (Day), and Kurt (Sudeikis) are all in a similar predicament: every day is a grind and their bosses are to blame. Nick’s superior is the verbally abusive Dave (Kevin Spacey), Dale is sexually harassed daily by nympho dentist Julia (Aniston), and Kurt’s company has been taken over by the ungrateful son (Farrell) of the man who founded it. After a few drinks and a consultation with a common criminal (Jamie Foxx), the three decide that their bosses need to be eliminated. It’s a lot tougher than it sounds.
Director Seth Gordon keeps things moving at a speedy pace as the guys run into one problem after another in trying to arrange the bosses’ deaths. A scene in which two of the guys try and dispose of some spilled cocaine is played perfectly, and each of the bosses is contemptible enough to wish the worst on them. Most of the dialogue feels improvised, which takes a toll in later scenes. It feels too chatty and jokes are hit-and-miss because of it. The ending, while satisfactory, just makes you feel like they should have gone for the gusto and really given these people their comeuppance.
Bateman, Day, and Sudeikis are all funny. Day winds up stealing many of the scenes with his high-pitched (a character calls him a hamster at one point, and that seems about right) delivery and clueless persona. These guys are all in over their heads, and it works more often than not. The supporting cast is cleverly casted. Making the biggest turn is Jennifer Aniston as the sex-crazed dentist. Her dialogue should rubber neck anyone expecting innocent Aniston, and it’s hilarious. Spacey basically does his Buddy Ackerman (from Swimming with Sharks) routine, and he’s appropriately despicable. Farrell is basically a cartoon character, but garners laughs in his brief scenes.
Horrible Bosses is no comedy game-changer or even the funniest movie this year, but it’s pretty funny and delivers the kid of crudity we’ve come to expect from this decade’s R-rated comedy. It does fall short of capitalizing on its twisted premise and finds itself meandering a little too much, but it’s dark enough to register with a depleted American workforce. You’ll get your laughs, but you’ll also wish it had gone for the throat in the end.
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
Length: 100 Minutes
Rating: R for crude and sexual content, pervasive language and some drug material.
Theatrical Release: July 8, 2011
Directed by: Seth Gordon
Written by: Michael Markowitz & John Francis Daley & Jonathan M. Goldstein.
Cast: Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston, Colin Farrell