Starring Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis. Directed by Seth Gordon. 98 minutes. 14A
If you’re like me and like to think of summer comedies as job applicants for future MTV Movie Award nominations, think of Horrible Bosses as the perfect candidate for a semi-good interview.
The dark comedy is a little underqualified for it’s intended job: tickling the general public’s bad taste buds. (The cast is a weird mismash of normally serious celebs and underappreciated oddballs.) And to be honest, it doesn’t really have anything new or exciting on it’s CV (the plot has been on the big screen several times before and the many of the actors have already worked together on less successful funny flicks–i.e. The Switch, Going the Distance). But like many impulse hires and well-deserved surprise blockbusters, it has something else great going for it: a pretty weird personality. So when push comes to solid, secret buzzer-filled handshake, it might actually have a shot at winning you (and a few golden moonmen) over.
Although a lot of it takes place in and around workplaces, Horrible Bosses is all pleasure and absolutely no business. Well, unless that business is pretty damn funny business. It doesn’t try to pretend it’s anything other than a part-time midsummer night’s stress reliever, getting straight to its simple and silly point and never thinks of turning back. Within the first ten minutes or so, we know exactly what we’re being sold: a tale of three Average Joes and BFFs who want to get their equally awful employers off their backs by, well, offing them.
First we meet Nick (Jason Bateman, Arrested Development and the soon-to-be-released Freaky Friday for bros, The Change-Up), a workaholic whose dick of a boss (Kevin Spacey) penalizes him for being two minutes late, pours him a huge glass of scotch in the morning and then calls him an alcoholic and promises him a raise he’s just going to give himself. Then we spend some time with Kurt (Jason Sudeikis, SNL), a ladies man who comes to hate the job he once loved after his makeshift father figure/boss (Donald Sutherland) dies suddenly and leaves the company to his kung-fu obsessed cokehead of a son (a nearly unrecognizable Colin Farrell). And finally we’re introduced to Dale (Charlie Day, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia), a dental assistant whose dream of being the perfect husband is being threatened by his overly sexual supervisor, Julia (Jennifer Aniston with dark hair and too much tan), and her way overwhelming desire to handle his, uh, drill.
The threesome decide to embark on their sinister and strangely hilarious plan rather swiftly, after one pint-heavy catch-up/rant sesh at their favourite bar. It starts off as a joke, a darkly satisfying fantasy to keep them from quitting and joining the rest of the unemployed victims of the recession. But shit gets real after Dale, the doormat of the bunch, finds out Julia’s took some lurid snapshots of him and her while he was getting surgery and is more than happy to show them to his future wife. A few failed Google searches and a GPS-led trip into the worst part of town later and they’re in the boss butchering biz with a “murder consultant” (Jamie Foxx) with the best name ever.
The rest of the madcap madness plays out like 9 to 5 with less boobs. Actually, come to think of it, there aren’t any boobs at all (Aniston’s near-nip reveal doesn’t count). Although touted as a raunchy, Apatow-type comedy, it’s pretty tame. In a good, honest-to-awkward way that isn’t everyone’s cup of pitch black tea but is needed at least every once in a while. Interestingly enough, the scene that made my knee the sorest had Day epically failing to talk dirty to Aniston.
As the clumsy, hysterically clueless Dale, Day steals most of the movie out from his more well-known (at least in a mainstream comedy sense) stars. Unlike their onscreen employers, Bateman and Sudeikis don’t get all power trippy on their cult co-star. They let him and his hamster face/voice–those are the screenwriters’ (Jonathan M. Goldstein, Michael Markowitz and Sam Weir, er, John Francis Daley) words, not mine–take control of the best bits. Let’s hope he gets promoted to bigger and better roles. Or you know, just bigger ones. As fans of It’s Always Sunny know, he’s both game and more than qualified for ridiculousness.
If you want to compare it to the other comedies that have made it big this beach season, Horrible Bosses, is way better than Bad Teacher but not quite as badass brilliant as Bridesmaids (although, one gag involving cocaine and a DustBuster made me laugh harder than that film’s now infamous food poisoning scene). It probably won’t become a full-time fave, but if you’re in the mood for a breezy comedy, it definitely deserves your attention. Even if it’s just during your next “sick” day. B