A simple premise combined with smart writing makes for a comedy that is nearly executed to perfection.
Ever wish your boss were dead? Some of us have. Thinking and dreaming about how to kill him is one thing, but the feeling subsides allowing common sense to take over. Normal people would never do anything so foolish. They would just up and quit, or they’d find a new job and then quit. But then there are those who feel that for them to be a peace their meddlesome bosses just need to die.
Horrible Bosses is exactly that. You have three horrible bosses and three employees that want them dead. As simple a premise as this is it fires on all cylinders from the word go and doesn’t let up for 100 minutes. Full of coarse language and bad behavior, Bad Teacher tried to be this comedy a few weeks ago and failed miserably.
Why this comedy works is two-fold: the cast and the writing. Starting with the bosses you have recognizable faces, including a two-time Oscar winner, one of the stars of Friends and a comb-over prosthesis with Colin Farrell underneath. The bosses they play are an HR nightmare, and they cause a certain degree of frustration for three friends. Nick (Jason Bateman) takes orders from Kevin Spacey who is totally on target and in rare Machiavellian form. Engaged-to-be-married Dale (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia‘s Charlie Day) is the dental assistant to a sexual predator (a filthy-talking Jennifer Aniston) who is constantly hounding him for an interoffice sexcapade. And Kurt (Jason Sudeikis), who is good with numbers and at chasing tail, loves working for his boss until he dies unexpectedly and now his loser cokehead son with the horrible comb-over (Farrell) takes over the family business.
Nick, Dale and Kurt have a common routine where they meet after work and split rounds of drinks while complaining about their latest problems with their bosses. One night one of the friends throws out a hypothetical about killing his boss. This supposed idea fuels the inspiration to actually go through with the act. Even with all the hours spent watching CSI and Law & Order the three are at a loss of how to go about it (and get away with it). They decide to seek out a hit man by going to the seediest bar full of unsavory characters. It is there they meet Dean “MF” Jones (Jamie Foxx) – two guesses what MF stands for – who offers up his services as their murder consultant. Not an actual killer-for-hire, just a mentor.
From the moment the comedy starts we have a general sense of how horrible the bosses are. Each victim (employee) provides a voiceover to set up the scene, illustrating just why his boss is so vile. Dave Harken (Spacey) toys with Nick, tricking him into drinking Scotch only to later demean him in an office meeting. Spacey is superb with his vociferous outbursts but not as loathsome as his character in Swimming with Sharks, Buddy Ackerman. There he played a Hollywood movie executive that made his underling’s life so much of a living hell that it led to his being held hostage.
Dr. Julia Harris (Aniston), the second horrible boss we encounter, is a sex fiend dentist who wants her dental assistant Dale in the worst possible way imaginable. She knows he’s in a committed relationship but there’s just something about him that drives her absolutely bonkers. Maybe it’s his wispy voice, or maybe she became so good at playing doctor as a child she wanted to try it out as a grown-up. Either way, Aniston nails her performance and makes us forget about a decade’s worth of roles where she played it safe. Some of the stuff that comes out of her mouth will shock those who still remember her as Rachel Green.
The third boss, Bobby (Farrell), who inherits the company from his recently deceased father, is nowhere near capable of running a business. He’s twitchy and irresponsible, and his house looks like it was furnished by The Sharper Image – like a man cave threw up. So Bobby’s systematic dismantling of the company, willing to bleed it dry to fuel his nose-candy addiction, horrifies Dale. He’s worked at his job for too long to have someone screw it all up.
The moment the comedy really takes off is in a scene where the three friends do a little recon work by breaking into a boss’s house. It is in this scene that people will discover Charlie Day. Just as Zach Galifianakis stole the show from his co-stars in The Hangover, Day betters the two Jasons, Bateman and Sudeikis. Bateman is the straight-comedian of the three, while Sudeikis is again in Hall Pass mode, still wanting to screw every good-looking woman who falls for his cheesy lines. The ineptness the three put on display is hysterical, with each friend upping the other when it comes to botching the break-in. You almost feel bad for their desperation but realize that the situation is entirely preposterous.
Horrible Bosses is vulgar and mean-spirited. But with its sexually explicit language and sarcastic remarks about the indignant employees who would rather see their bosses dead than tell them to take this job and shove it, the comedy maintains its wicked funny bone throughout. Seth Gordon, who redeems himself after giving us the lump of coal Four Christmases three years ago, with the help of writers Michael Markowitz, John Francis Daley (a graduate of the school of Judd Apatow having starred in the one-and-done season of Freaks & Geeks), and Jonathan Goldstein, delivers a comedy that could have easily gone askew but works so much better than expected.
Director: Seth Gordon Notable Cast: Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, Charlie Day, Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston, Colin Farrell, Jamie Foxx Writer(s): Michael Markowitz, John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein
Travis Leamons is one of the Inside Pulse Originals and currently holds the position of Managing Editor at Inside Pulse Movies. He's told that the position is his until he's dead or if "The Boss" can find somebody better. I expect the best and I give the best. Here's the beer. Here's the entertainment. Now have fun. That's an order!