Theatrical Review: HORRIBLE BOSSES
Writers: Michael Markowitz (screenplay and story), John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein (screenplay)
Director: Seth Gordon
Cast: Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston, Colin Farrell, Jamie Foxx
Studio: Warner Bros.
Best friends since high school, Dale, Nick, and Kurt are all at different stages in their work lives, but they’ve all got the exact same problem – horrible bosses (bet you didn’t see that coming, right?). But these guys and gal are really horrible, life-ruining horrible. So, after a number of complications and difficulties, our three leads cook up a simple premise – they’ll kill each others’ bosses. It’s foolproof! Well, not really, but these three seem to think it is, and thus they begin the process of planning (complete with lots of “intel” gathering) the demises of three differently-bodied monsters. The plans involve peanuts and boxes of cocaine and a “murder consultant” (Jamie Foxx) who goes by a popular expletive that starts with a “mother” and ends with a “ker.” It’s a bit much. Or is it?
While the plotline of HORRIBLE BOSSES relies on oversized characters and overblown situations, there’s a big kernel of truth within it. Though the boys’ various bosses all have different traits and behaviors that place them in some sort of All-Time Hall of Fame of Bad Bosses, they are all specifically horrible to their particular underlings. Nick (Jason Bateman) thinks that hard work will get him somewhere – Dave (Kevin Spacey) spits all over that particular type of work ethic. Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) may be a sex addict, but he genuinely cares about his company – Bobby (Colin Farrell) doesn’t care about it in the slightest. Dale’s (Charlie Day) life is dedicated to his desire to be a monogamous husband – Julia’s (Jennifer Aniston) full court press moves threaten that which he holds so dear. They’re horrible people, but they’re especially horrible in the eyes of these particular three.
Of course, the bosses are painted with broad strokes, the type of evil people who giddily announce the whys and hows of their bad deeds – Julia declares her desire to have sex with Dale without blinking an eye, Bobby has no qualms in calling the family company “an ATM”, and Dave is just straight unhinged. Dave may actually be the most complete character of said horrible bosses – but the colored-in details of Dave’s personal life exist primarily to drive forward the big twist that changes up HORRIBLE BOSSES in its middle, not necessarily to flesh out Dave as a character (but what a great twist it is). Aniston, Farrell, and Spacey are all good fun here in their very different roles, almost too fun, almost to the point of scenery-chewing.
But our leads, Bateman, Sudeikis, and Day, have a solid, workable chemistry between them. They’re believable as friends and, despite an outlandish premise, they still exist on screen as regular guys, average Joes who ground the plot of the film in something very much like reality. Yet HORRIBLE BOSSES doesn’t allow the three to break out their full charms, as it’s frequently uneven, mercilessly unsure of what it wants to be and how it wants to do it. The film is never as brutal as it could be, never as dark, but it’s also never as goofy and never as cheap as its potential would allow. It’s not violent, but it has some violence in it. It’s not crude, but it’s got some eye-popping language in it. It’s not wacky, but it’s sometimes silly. It’s not fully invested in itself, but not in a way that’s necessarily bad. HORRIBLE BOSSES could be better, but it could also be much, more worse.
As is, HORRIBLE BOSSES seems like the type of film that will only get funnier with repeated viewings, packed full of tons of throwaway lines that are much cleverer than nearly every other comedy of its ilk to come out recently. And that’s all to the credit of the improvisational nature of the best moments between the three friends, not so much to the film’s script or to Seth Gordon’s direction. HORRIBLE BOSSES is still consistently funny, but with no big, gut-busting sequences. It’s never uproarious, but it gets the job done, less with quick bullets than with long stabs.