It’s a simple enough idea. Three friends with three fiendishly terrible bosses let a little liquid courage help them down a dastardly yet not all that surprising road: kill the bastards. And as ridiculous as the idea behind Horrible Bosses is as low-brow as much of the humor is and as hard as it tries (and fails) to ground itself in real world issues it still works. And when I say it works I mean it’s just really funny.
At the film’s center we have Nick (Jason Bateman) Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) and Dale (Charlie Day) and their well horrible bosses: Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey) Bobby Pellit (Colin Farrell) and Dr. Julia Harris D.D.S. (Jennifer Aniston). In order for any of this potential murdering to work the film has to truly vilify this trio of bosses and on that token it succeeds almost too well. Spacey’s terrifying psychopath of a boss isn’t exactly funny though he did make me want to crawl under my seat and hide. Farrell’s cokehead kung-fu master is probably the most surprising of the three though he doesn’t get nearly enough screen time. And finally we find Aniston the woman who can’t seem to shake the term “America’s Sweetheart ” as the insatiable psychotic sexual deviant. I can’t say Aniston will be able to get away with this sort of thing in the future but the shock factor of seeing her flip her switch like this garners some laughs this time.
Of course none of this would work without our hapless heroes. Bateman does his usual shctick as the loveable level-headed straightman trying to keep himself afloat while the other two can’t seem to stay out of trouble. Sudeikis brings his deep-voiced frat boy antics to the screen and while they normally don’t do it for me Bateman and Day balance him out. Of course when we get down to it Day is the one who steals the film. He’s not exactly delivering the unbridled insanity we’ve come to know and love on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia but that’s only because in this film he actually plays a normal functioning human being. And when you combine Day’s signature spasms and raspy high-pitched verbal fits with Aniston’s overdrawn predatory practices you get a few bursts of hilarity however uncomfortable.
Finally we get a few chuckles out of Dean "MF" Jones (Jamie Foxx) but the actor himself was completely wasted. The character simply rests on the idea that we know Foxx as a personality outside of the film -- much like Aniston’s character does -- rather than actually requiring any legwork from such a capable onscreen presence.
But there's a little method to this madness; without this giant cast of talented major players the script itself would likely fall a little flat. A few wayward jokes drag it down including a desperate attempt to connect this workplace issue to the financial crisis by including a former Lehman Brothers employee rendered so desperate by his circumstances that he trolls Applebee’s offering sexual favors. The movie succeeds as a superficial goofy comedy – it really has no place trying to nudge its way into real world issues.
Of course there’s one thing I find incredibly refreshing about the flick ; while it certainly has the typical trio formula – the straight man the smartass and the nutjob – it gives all three equal billing. Nick isn’t the main character and his two friends aren’t his sidekicks. Director Seth Gordon opens the film with three segments of equal length wherein each peg of our trio takes a moment to explain their own personal slice of daily hell with a particularly hilarious brand of explicit language before the film gets down to business. It makes Nick Kurt and Dale a true trio and gives weight to each of their cartoonish tribulations as the film's punctuated pace eventually descends into complete insanity.
You probably won’t add Horrible Bosses to your list of classic comedies and it certainly doesn’t merit extensive praise but the bottom line is that despite a few overreaching elements it’s just a fast-paced outrageous hilarious summer comedy. And really with a film like this that’s all we’re hoping for anyway.