Horrible Bosses is, so far, this summer’s most promising comedy. In part due to a darkly hilarious, and bitterly relatable plot, but mostly due to the brilliant amalgamation of the distinct comic styles of the three stars, Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day. With this the trio at the center of Horrible Bosses, it's hard to avoid comparing them to the "Frat Pack," and more specifically the trio at the center of Old School: Luke Wilson, Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell.
Old School, like Horrible Bosses, has a hysterically outlandish plot, but the real humor in the film lies in the differences among the main castmembers: each of the three men offer a different comedic angle that, when combined, produced a formula that, eight years later still makes Old School one of the funniest movies out there. Though by no means unique to the raunchy comedy, this three-man formula is what launched this group to stardom. The film uses this dynamic to highlight the unique comic strengths of Wilson, Vaughn and Ferrell--each playing to his strengths as the Straight Man, the Wiseass and the Basket Case, respectively. Horrible Bosses seems to have recognized this, as a strikingly similar opportunity is availed in this film to Bateman, Sudeikis and Day. All most famous for their television roles (Bateman was the star of Arrested Development, Sudeikis is still one of the funniest featured players on Saturday Night Live, and Charlie Day is the reason to watch It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia), their distinct stylings offer just as much to the big screen as they do to the small screen.Following in the footsteps of Wilson, Vaughn and Ferrell (who, of course, were following in the footsteps of other famous threes in comedy: Stooges, Amigos, Men and a Baby), Bateman, Sudeikis and Day are the natural embodiments of a comic routine that is sure to incite laughter.
With this in its arsenal, Horrible Bosses could turn out to be the Old School for Bateman, Sudeikis and Day—perhaps the first in a long line of hilarious film collaborations.
The Straight Man
As is the case in so many comedies, at the center of a group of madmen, idiots and philanderers is someone who is passable as a functional human being. Whether his strength be intelligence, morality, or just simply the propensity to listen to reason once in a blue moon, this character often plays as the leader of his mentally inferior comrades. In Old School, the role was occupied by Wilson—a sad-sack who just didn’t have it in him to be as big a jerk or a fool as his buddies. Wilson garnered our sympathy as he played, scarily naturally, the kind of guy that bad things just happen to. The sort of Job figure who accepts his bad fortune, but sees very clearly the error of it all. But Bateman is no Job (joke excessively intended). He's acerbic, aggravated, and at constant odds with all of the forces against him. Bateman amplifies the levelheaded character into so much more than just a vehicle for a perspective on the insanity around him. The actor turns the very idea of the sole grounded character into hilarity. Bateman can play frustrated, dumbfounded and put-upon so well that you ache with sympathy for him—even when he’s lashing back at his moron friends or family members with unrelenting pompousness and (in the actor’s own words) “natural dickishness.” Bateman’s sharp tongue, self-righteous attitude and excusably condescending delivery allows for him to turn the traditionally boring role of “the straight man” into comedic masterwork time and time again.
To release the tension in high-stakes situations like planning frat parties…and murder…there needs to be a wiseass in every group. Someone who doesn’t really seem to be taking any of the consequences all that seriously. A perpetually quipping, deep-voiced “man’s man” whose only significant fixations are carnal. One of Vince Vaughn’s earliest of many wisecracking performances was displayed in Old School, and in Horrible Bosses, the role is fulfilled by Jason Sudeikis. The deliveries of these two comedians are heavily divergent: Vaughn is notorious for an unparalleled rapid-fire delivery, shooting off a few dozen marked critiques at all those who surround him in under a minute. Sudeikis is more of the laid back type: he'll cough out a joke at anyone's expense with that incurable grin on his face. As his most notable work is sketch-work on SNL, Sudeikis probably conjures a more versatile list of types than his two costars. He also terrifically played Floyd, the “only decent boyfriend” Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) ever had in a recurring role on 30 Rock. But his talents really shine as the laid-back joker, invoking aggravation in his uptight gang leader due to his refusal to accept any semblance of sincerity or genuine maturity. The key to Sudeikis’ greatness is that you truly believe that if the actor himself were in any of these situations, he’d react the same way. Real-life Sudeikis doesn’t seem like he’d be all that bothered by his involvement in a murder plot. Art imitates life. Thus, we are granted the perfect “wiseass.” Hilarity ensues.
The Basket Case
Bateman is the King of the group. Sudeikis: the Joker. And now, of course, we come to The Wild Card. Winning the audiences of every comedy worth its salt is someone who traverses into territories that are beyond human. A character stricken with a level of stupidity, mental instability, amorality, substance abuse, self-destructive habits or just general lack of regard for anything that could be remotely recognizable as normal. Charlie Day, as Charlie Kelly in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, is the epitome of EACH ONE of these qualities. In Old School, Will Ferrell stole the show as the brain-dead Frank “The Tank” Rickard, and it’ll be no surprise if Day delivers a performance of this caliber in Horrible Bosses. Ferrell has carried his 'hysterical buffoon' for nearly a decade. Most recently, he brought touches (or minefields) of the persona to his character on The Office, DeAngelo Vickars. The actor is famous for a perpetual blank-faced confusion, high-volume outbursts, and a complete misunderstanding of human coordination. Charlie Day, though...he's where this routine stops evoking a sense of childlike innocence, and begins to resemble a very dark, hilariously horrifying emotional disturbance. Even at his calmest, Day always seems to be on the brink of a nervous breakdown. He stammers uneasily through casual social interaction. He faces backbreaking challenge with ideas that a first grader would fine tediously simplistic. And when his fuse is lit—it always happens sooner or later—he explodes into a hurricane of incoherent shrieks, destruction of property, and the undercurrent that he might drop dead at any second. And I don’t think I’m being too optimistic to think that Day has plenty of other tricks at his disposal that we’ve yet to see. The exemplification of a human being that has had all but life itself beaten out of him: that’s what you want in your “basket case.” And that’s what Day does best.
I know I’ll be angering a lot of people by saying that Horrible Bosses could be this group’s Old School. Sure, Old School was a modern classic. But don’t be so sure that Horrible Bosses won’t be the same. With a team like Bateman, Sudeikis and Day, all doing what they do best, I have nothing but high hopes for the movie and for the future of these guys’ film careers. Let’s just hope none of them get involved with another Blades of Glory.
Elton John lambastes Madonna for miming songs
Elton John is rather outspoken these days. A few weeks after blasting the Taiwanese media for surprising him at the airport, John--while collecting a songwriting award from Q magazine in London--took a foul-mouthed swipe at Madonna, saying she cheated her fans by miming on stage, Reuters reports. When he discovered she had been nominated for Best Live Act, he responded, "Anyone who lip-synchs in public on stage when you pay 75 pounds ($134) to see them should be shot," referring to the ticket prices for Madonna's last concert tour. "Madonna, best f***ing live act? F*** off!" Yowch! He ended his outburst by saying: "That's me off her f***ing Christmas card list but do I give a toss? No." John's tirade prompted a swift response from Madonna's spokeswoman Liz Rosenberg, Reuters reports, who said in a statement: "Madonna does not lip-synch nor does she spend her time trashing other artists." The statement added, "Elton John remains on her Christmas card list whether he is nice…or naughty."
Jackson's defense want DA off case
Michael Jackson's lawyers filed a motion Monday, which was sealed, to remove the Santa Barbara County district attorney Tom Sneddon from the child molestation case against the singer, The Associated Press reports. The motion was one of several filed under seal by Jackson's attorney Robert Sanger, who said sealing the motion was necessary because "the content of the motion includes reference to details in under-seal material including discovery materials, grand jury transcripts, investigative reports, exhibits and identities of witnesses." Jackson's lawyers have claimed that District Attorney Tom Sneddon had a personal vendetta against the music star after failing to get charges filed against him in a 1993 allegation of child molestation.
Katey Sagal gets hitched
Katey Sagal, best known as Peg Bundy on Fox's Married…With Children and now starring in ABC's 8 Simple Rules, married Kurt Sutter, a writer for F/X's The Shield, Saturday in Los Angeles, AP reports. It was the third marriage for Sagal, who has a daughter and son from her 1993 marriage to actor Jack White.
George Harrison memorabilia stolen
Pictures of former Beatle George Harrison were stolen from his sister's car while she was donating memorabilia to the Clinton Presidential Library. Lou Harrison told the AP Monday someone shattered a window of her car and stole a briefcase, which contained photos of her and her brother, as well as lyrics to a number of his songs. Harrison had driven from her home in southern Illinois to donate memorabilia to the Little Rock, Ark., library, which is slated to open Nov. 18. "(The items are) precious to me obviously because I don't have my brother in person any more," she told Little Rock station KTHV-TV. Harrison, who had taken most of the items to the library when she discovered the break-in, asked for Beatles fans to help her recover the pictures. "Maybe they could keep an eye on the Internet," she said.
Zeta-Jones stalking trial can be televised
A judge Monday decided pretrial hearings for a woman accused of stalking Catherine Zeta-Jones could be televised--except when the proceedings involve witness testimony, AP reports. Judge David Mintz, however, did not rule on the motion filed by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department asking cameras be barred from the trial itself because some witnesses are undercover detectives. Dawnette Knight, 33, is charged with one count of stalking and 24 counts of making criminal threats for allegedly sending threatening and violent letters to Zeta-Jones' husband, actor Michael Douglas. Attorneys for Zeta-Jones had filed a motion asking the court to bar cameras over concerns media coverage would taint the jury pool and encourage copycat crimes. The trial for Knight, who was arrested June 3 at her Beverly Hills home and is being held on $1 million bail, is scheduled to start Nov. 10. If convicted, she could face up to 19 years in prison.
The Donald takes crack at primetime scripted drama
Real estate magnate turned reality TV star Donald Trump is expected to serve as an executive producer on a scripted series, tentatively titled The Towers. Sources told The Hollywood Reporter that Trump, who stars in and executive produces the hit NBC reality show The Apprentice, is in talks with the network for the primetime drama series that would be set in part at the Trump Tower, The Donald's posh skyscraper in Manhattan that also hosts The Apprentice contestants. According to The Reporter, Gay Walch, the writer/producer behind the WB's Summerland, is being eyed to pen the project.
Guylaine Cadorette contributed to this report.
His trademark flowing hair gone, the newly shorn Hugh Grant appeared at the London premiere of About a Boy Sunday. He spent some time greeting the multitudes of fans who had gathered to see him and rebuffing questions on former paramour Elizabeth Hurley. Grant signed autographs for the throng but repeatedly stated that he would not comment on Liz or her 10-day-old son, Damian. The other two stars of the film, Toni Collette and Nicholas Hoult, also attended the premiere.
Maybe Cameron Diaz isn't "The Sweetest Thing." SkyNews.com quotes the blonde beauty as saying, "I'm not the marrying kind," to current beau Jared Leto. Citing the famous lack of marriage stability in Hollywood, Diaz went on to say, "I don't want to be another statistic."
John Cusack (Serendipity, America's Sweethearts) is set to star in John Grisham's The Runaway Jury, which will begin filming this fall, Variety reports. Cusack may feel some heat, as Naomi Watts (Mulholland Drive) is being considered for the female lead.
Nathan Lane is clearly a hard act to follow. Henry Goodman, who took over for Lane in the Broadway play The Producers, has been fired after just 30 performances, Variety reports. Brad Oscar, who was Lane's understudy, will take over the lead role of Max Bialystock. Steven Weber, who took over for Matthew Broderick when Broderick and Lane retired in March, will continue on with his role.
Bernie Mac, Fox's highest-rated new series of the 2001-2002 season, has been cleared for a second year, Variety says. Airing Wednesdays at 9 p.m., the endearing family comedy has drawn decent ratings and outstanding critical reviews. It's also won a prestigious Peabody Award.
Mia Farrow (Hannah and Her Sisters) will grace the small screen again. The former star of soap Peyton Place will join titular star Mary McCormack on CBS' comedy Julie Lydecker. Farrow plays McCormack's flighty mother who comes to live with her unemployed daughter.
Academy Award host Whoopi Goldberg will not be returning to her day job as producer and center square of Hollywood Squares, a post she's filled for the past four years, Reuters reports. The show has been renewed for a fifth and sixth season, which will have to go on without the comedienne. No word yet has been received on a replacement.
British rockers Oasis are dipping into the well once again. Despite their last album's poor reception, the group members are planning to release their first album (Heathen Chemistry) in more than two years, in July. The first single from the album, "The Hindu Times," has just been released to radio stations, though fans have been able to download a bootleg copy from the Internet for months.
Survivor: Marquesas' Tammy Leitner is already a winner. Leitner has been given a journalism award for her work as a police reporter by the Associated Press Managing Editors of Arizona. Along with three other reporters, Leitner covered a rash of swimming pool drownings for the East Valley Tribune, winning first place in the public service reporting category. Leitner is one of the nine remaining contestants on Survivor who are competing for the $1 million top prize.