Charlie Day is on the cusp of superstardom. Okay, okay, that’s my inner fangirl taking over. I’ll kick that down just a few notches because he’s only got his name on a handful of projects at the moment, but his time is coming. While you may not have the pleasure of knowing him as the disturbingly funny nutcase, Charlie Kelly, on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, it won’t be long before you won’t be able to avoid the actor. His new film, Horrible Bosses, hits theaters today and if it’s any indication, he’ll soon be stealing more than a few scenes.
Day’s been nabbing little roles here and there since 2000, but it wasn’t until he, along with costars Glenn Howerton and Rob McElhenney, created this strange, scrappy little show known as It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia for FX. While fans seem to gravitate towards all the wild characters — especially late addition Danny DeVito — Day has a pull unlike the others. (See: Kitten Mittens.) His unique brand of spastic frustration, innocent yet determined ignorance, and his signature high-pitched and exasperated rasp combine with what some folks like to call “crazy eyes” to create an impregnable force of hilarity that can turn almost any setup into comedy gold.
While I’ll fight tooth and nail with anyone who attempts to blaspheme the caliber of It’s Always Sunny, I can admit that it’s not for everyone. And Day is one of the most obvious reasons it’s not for everyone. Frankly, he’s a little out there and that hilarious rasp so many of us love is a point of contention for those on the other side of the fence. I think Gilbert Godfried is the most recent comparison, though I think it’s a bit harsh. Perhaps that’s why it took so long for a studio to pick Day up and give him a chance at the big time, but I reckon they’ll be glad they did. In Horrible Bosses, Day is the glue that holds the hapless trio together. Jason Bateman and Jason Sudeikis are fairly predictable, plodding along in their usual routines, but who better to shake up the humdrum straightman and the unrelenting horndog than the king spaz himself?
Day plays Dale, a dental hygienist relegated to taking whatever job he can nail down thanks to a drunken, innocent incident that landed him with a black mark on his record. The only problem is that his boss, Dr. Julia Harris, D.D.S. (Jennifer Aniston), is a voracious, sex-obsessed psychopath who drives him to the edge, and for that I thank Miss Aniston because it pushes Day’s character to the brink and thus to a whole lot of insanity. And if the role seems like it was made for him, that’s because it sort of was. Screenwriter Michael Markowitz worked on Bosses script and as he puts it, “You inevitably start hearing a voice in your head when you’re rewriting and tweaking things. You get that Charlie Day voice in your head.” And how could you not? It’s probably one of the most distinct voices in the business.
Of course he doesn’t just rely on a voice to garner all his laughs. He not only serves as a writer on It’s Always Sunny, but he lends a few of his –er – special talents to a rather sensitive scene in Bosses. Rather than spoil it for you, I’ll just note that Day is charged with making some rather torrid remarks to a costar, a chunk of which was largely improvised. The scene is hilarious, but in Day’s mind, it’s no big deal. “I’ve got a filthy mouth. I can talk dirty for anyone who wants to hear,” he said when I asked about it at the Horrible Bosses press conference.
Day may not give himself enough credit, but it seems that the rest of Hollywood is finally starting to get it. Next, he’s taking that signature rasp to Guillermo Del Toro’s highly anticipated alien invasion movie, Pacific Rim, alongside FX’s other Charlie, Sons of Anarchy’s Charlie Hunnam, which is not to say he won’t lend the film a little comic relief, but it’s certainly a step in a different direction. Day may not be lining things up the way his costar in Bosses and Going the Distance Jason Sudeikis, is but something tells me it won’t be long before his opportunities start multiplying. And for all of our sakes, I sincerely hope I’m right.