Following in the footsteps of box office juggernauts The Hangover and Bridesmaids, Horrible Bosses tries to cash in on the manic shenanigans and raunchy jokes we’ve come to expect from the buddy-caper-hijinks genre. As far as mindless summer movies go, Horrible Bosses meets all the requirements. It’s summer, it’s a movie, and it’s totally mindless.
The plot is simple enough. Three ordinary friends find themselves suffering under the thumbs of their odious bosses. For various reasons, they can’t or won’t quit their jobs, and so they decide to do the next best thing: kill them.
Jason Bateman plays Nick, a smart enough white-collar guy who works his ass off, hoping to become Senior Vice President of something. Unfortunately, he’s at the mercy of his sadistic, mind game-playing boss, played with evil glee by Kevin Spacey. Nick is not unlike Michael Bluth, Bateman’s character in Arrested Development. He’s the sensible every man, thwarted by life and surrounded by imbeciles, in this case, his two friends, the womanizing Kurt and nit-wit Dale.
Saturday Night Live‘s Jason Sudeikis is Kurt, an accountant who loves his job until the company’s kindly owner (Donald Sutherland in an all-too brief appearance) dies, leaving the place in the hands of his idiot cokehead son, Bobby. As Bobby, Colin Farrell is one of the film’s bright spots, sporting a potbelly, a Kung Fu obssession, and a comb-over that looks like stringy vines are making their way across the top of his head.
Rounding out the trio is Dale, a dental hygienist whose biggest goal is to be a husband. Played by Charlie Day (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia), Dale is a Hobbit-sized Zach Galifianakis, only whinier. Dale’s nemesis is his relentless sexual predator boss, Julia Harris, D.D.S., in the form of a scene-stealing Jennifer Aniston.
Casting off her Good Girl persona, Aniston writhes and gropes her way through the film, barking filthy words at Dale and ogling his junk. It makes little sense that a successful, gorgeous woman like Julia wants to bed a gerbil like Dale, but the script was written by three men, so what do you expect? On the bright side, Aniston appears to be having a blast.
Bosses doesn’t care about being politically correct. After Bobby inherits the company, he orders Kurt to “trim the fat” by firing the fat people. When the guys drive to the “worst part of town” in search of a contract killer, they end up in a bar filled with black people, (worst part of town!) The clueless schlubs meet Dean “Muthafucka” Jones, (Jamie Foxx) a dude they assume to be a killer. Muthafucka knows three rubes when he sees them and as their “murder consultant,” tells the guys to kill each other’s bosses, a la Strangers on a Train.
Soon enough, Nick, Kurt and Dale are doing recon by sitting outside their bosses’ houses in Nick’s Prius, eating sandwiches, or ineptly breaking and entering, looking for habits and weaknesses to exploit. They have a brush with the law that doesn’t go far enough and there’s a running gag involving a cat that isn’t very funny.
Unlike The Hangover, the guys aren’t up against big stakes like solving the mystery of a missing friend. And unlike Bridesmaids, there’s no underpinning message about the complexity of friendship. Instead, Horrible Bosses presents three middleclass guys with three middling problems, one of which doesn’t even seem like a real problem, not in a comedy anyway.
Jason Bateman delivers another strong, snarky performance, as usual, while Jason Sudeikis does what he can with bland Kurt, whose only interesting traits are his love of quickies, and a possible obsession with his own butt. Day’s turn as Dale might be better suited for television sitcoms, where incompetent but well-meaning average guys are plentiful, and inexplicably loved by women who deserve more.
Modern Family‘s Julie Bowen plays Kevin Spacey’s wife, who he imagines is cheating on him with every guy she meets. Bowen has great comedy timing, facial expressions and smarts, but you wouldn’t know it from her under-written role. In fact, excluding Julia, the other female roles are few and far between: a co-worker of Kurt’s, and Dale’s fiancée, neither if which are given much to do. Even The Hangover had Heather Graham.
Some may disagree on a technicality, but I think Horrible Bosses fails the famous Bechdel Test:
1. It has to have at least two women in it. Yes, but barely.
2. Who talk to each other. Not really.
3. About something besides a man. No.
Bechdel Grade: Fail.
If you want a much better movie about three friends who plot to get rid of their horrible boss, I suggest you rent 9 to 5, because watching Horrible Bosses is like looking at your paycheck at the end of the week: You wish it were more.
Horrible Bosses is in theaters now.