Review: Seth Gordon's 'Horrible Bosses' Has About a 70% Work Ethic
by Jeremy Kirk
July 8, 2011
The horrible boss. The universal, cinematic constant you can always be sure is going to rear its ugly head. The idea of the awful boss who puts a film's protagonist against the ropes at every turn is really nothing new. Neither is the idea of said protagonist turning the tables and fighting back, violently at times as seen in the hidden gem Swimming With Sharks. So, the premise of Horrible Bosses, the new comedy directed by Seth Gordon, is no revelation of narrative structuring. Neither is it a groundbreaking work of comedy. The jokes hit, maybe not as hard or as often as you might want, but when all is said and done, there's an enjoyable time to be had watching the shenanigans and left turns taken in Horrible Bosses. Just expect your side to be fully intact when the credits roll.
Instead of one horrible boss, instead of one protagonist who decides to stomp rather than tiptoe on eggshells, Horrible Bosses has three of each. Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day play the three employees, friends of each other who spend their evenings drowning their work-place sorrows in mugs of beer. Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell and Jennifer Aniston are the "boss" counterpart to each, each delivering a unique form of work environment torture for our heroes. One night, after a particularly beer-soaked session of brain-storming, the three tyrannized friends hatch a scheme. They decide the world would be better without their bosses, and plans are set in motion to take each boss out in the ultimate sense of the phrase.
For the most part, the cast in Horrible Bosses works well. There's a natural chemistry between Sudeikis and Day, each one throwing out their own character eccentricities. Sudeikis's character is a womanizing, would-be leader, but he's likable enough in the role. And sure, Charlie Day seems to be reprising his role from "It's Always Sunny", but to hear his voice get higher and higher pitched as a situation intensifies is downright hysterical. It's when Day's character inadvertently ends up in a cocaine high that the real break-neck pace of his delivery can present itself.
Spacey, Farrell, and Aniston are equally great. Spacey could play the overbearing, hate-filled, egotistical boss in his sleep, but he's doing anything but going through the motions here. Farrell is basically unrecognizable under a shredded mop of thin hair and behind crass dialogue which he belches out. If anything is amiss with Farrell's character it's the fact that he simply isn't in the film enough. Aniston plays a lewd D.D.S. to Day's dental assistant. She essentially doesn't know the meaning of the phrase "sexual harassment", and Day's character, soon to be married, find's it all extremely inappropriate. It's probably the best worker/employer relationship in the movie, most of that thanks in large part to each actor's performance.
An outside party, Jamie Foxx, shows up as a "murdering consultant" for the three employees. As with Farrell's character, he's funny every time he's on screen, but you can't help but wonder if there couldn't have been more for him to do here. Organically, that is. When his character does pop up again late in the film, it feels shoe-horned, as if they felt it necessary to have him in there even though his presence is inessential and contrived.
This is representative of the bigger problem Horrible Bosses runs into. Not much about the film feels organic. Some of the jokes hit harder than others. There's an ongoing joke regarding Spacey's cat that feels on target every time it comes up. But the choreography to a lot of the jokes here are noticeable, as if you can see their outline forming before they actually reveal themselves. More of the out-of-left-field brand of humor would have been welcome. At one point Day's character is seen watching a movie. It's The Notebook, a funny choice had it not been so patent. As it is, the jokes and the consistency of Horrible Bosses' humor all work, but there's an obvious way they could have worked even better.
That same goes for the narrative. It isn't difficult to deduce about halfway through how much of the film's dilemma's are going to work themselves out. Things are setup in the most obvious of ways so that they can only play out one way, and, aside from a few eleventh hour hiccups, they play out exactly as we expect them to. It's all done through happenstance, too, no real conscious maneuvering from the main characters.
Which brings us to Jason Bateman, the lead of the film, the straight-laced every-man who gets roped into a scheme with his friends and awkwardly tries to find his way to the door of a darkened room. Sound familiar? Probably. That's because this seems to be the same role Bateman plays in every comedy he appears in these days. There's nothing new about his character, and, honestly, there's not much likable about him either. We just know he's the lead due to his name being credited first. Outside of that, there's isn't anything about this character or Bateman's performance that is easy to connect with.
But plot contrivances, obviously framed jokes, and a banal lead aside - that all sounds more damning than it's intended to be - Horrible Bosses is a solidly funny film, a 3/4 baked souffle that tastes just fine but could have stood to be a bit more done. The performances filling the three bosses and Charlie Day are the real stand-outs with Day practically stealing the show at every turn. Horrible Bosses might not be the freshest or most riotous of comedies out there, but it gets the job done.
Jeremy's Rating: 7 out of 10
Reader Feedback - 6 Comments
I laughed til I almost puked at this movie. Charlie Day steals the show - I've never seen him in anything before so now I'm going to have to rent "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia". The movie started a little rough and I was thinking "typical Hollywood" but then I let it rush over me and I thoroughly enjoyed the ride that seemed like it ended too soon. 4/5 ****
Matt on Jul 8, 2011
I cant believe you never watched "its always sunny" new season in September :]
Asumagrystsh on Jul 8, 2011
i got to say, i was very impressed with this movie. i laughed almost throughout the entire movie and still remember plenty of the one liners. as expected, day was awesome, and i even like farrell, and thats saying ALOT. all in all, a pleasant surprise for a comedy.
rockkicker on Jul 11, 2011
I thought this was pretty funny. Bateman, Day and Sudeikis had really great chemistry and Aniston, Spacey, and Farrell were all pretty evil and villainous as the bosses.. I did wish it would have gotten a bit darker with it's subject at certain times but overall, pretty good I thought. Good Review! Check out mine when you can!
Dan O'Neill on Jul 12, 2011
I agree. This was a fresh comedy after the whole Hangover period. Let me say something about the Hangover first. To be honest I really hope they don't make a Hangover 3. What's the point?! The second one was almost as monotonous as the first Hangover after u watch it a second time. Horrible Bosses had better jokes and I feel this movie will be funnier the second time I watch it. With the Hangover, it's not as funny watching it the second time around. You know all the parts already and I love Zach Galifianakis, I saw his stand-up well before Hangover came out, but his jokes in the Hangover get old fast. Maybe I'm biased because two of my favorite t.v. shows of all time Arrested Development and It's Always Sunny but a good comedy to me is when you can watch it again and again and still be laughing the same amount.
J T K on Jul 12, 2011
Just caught this over the weekend, and I'd have to say this is by far the funniest disgruntled worker movie since Office Space...and Jennifer Aniston is waaay better in this movie than in Office Space. Really, all three of the horrible bosses are the real stars of the show, Kevin Spacey plays the evil ruthless boss well, and Colin Farrell is totally in his element as a crazy spoiled coke head boss.The bond between the three protagonists is also quite strong, loved when they were at the bar talking about the plan to kill the bosses for the first time, it was some great riffing between the three of them...(also did anyone else catch that new Dirty Heads song w/ the new Sublime guy? It's called "Lay Me Down" and it's like the chillest summer jam ever)Hope they don't screw up this good buddy movie by making a crappy sequel (cough, cough The Hangover 2)!
Darci on Jul 12, 2011
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