HORRIBLE BOSSES is the latest dude comedy that Hollywood hath delivered unto us. It’s a genre now. The success of Judd Apatow’s KNOCKED UP and 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN has spawned a legion of variations that include THE HANGOVER, HALL PASS, THE CHANGE UP and this movie.
The Apatow films were slacker comedies that focussed on groups of smart, but emotionally immature guys who amused or attacked each other with dialogue that in previous decades would have been considered extremely offensive. In other words, those films observed how young men of a certain type talked and thought and did it accurately enough to become a comedy standard.
The men in HORRIBLE BOSSES are more middle class and more together than the Apatow boys. They’re also more predictable and vanilla. Which is not to say this movie doesn’t work, in fact, it moves like clockwork–it runs smoothly on rails. A lot of this has to do with strong casting. And the rest is the solid script written by television veteran Michael Markowitz and John Francis Daley. Daley is better known from his acting roles in TV’s BONES and FREAKS AND GEEKS. He has a cameo in this.
Most of the roles are filled with professionals who have considerable comedic chops. Jason Sudeikis (30 ROCK, HALL PASS), Jason Bateman (ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT, JUNO) and Charlie Day (IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA) play three friends who have bosses who are making their lives miserable.
Kevin Spacey plays Bateman’s domineering boss in a turn reminiscent of his role in SWIMMING WITH SHARKS (1994). Jennifer Aniston’s role is the predator dentist who sexually harasses Day. Colin Farrell’s is the obnoxious coked up rich kid who inherits his father’s business and will run it into the ground. He takes a particular dislike to Sudeikis’s character.
For reasons that do not bear even one moment of scrutiny, the put-upon trio decide the best way to deal with their employers is to murder them. They hatch an involved plan with the assistance of a murder consultant well-played by Jamie Foxx. What follows is a series of ludicrous co-incidences and comedy set pieces that keep the action humming and the laughs moving right along.
A lot of the laughs come from the by-play between the three male leads. They have a good comedic rapport and despite Bateman and Sudeikis having quite similar qualities as characters, it all balances out nicely with the manic loser shtick of Day. I really have only two quibbles, which are the sort of nit-picking things that reviewers like myself dislike and audiences tend not to give a damn about.
A lot of the Aniston stuff was somewhat ‘off’ in tone. She throws herself right into the role, no doubt happy for an opportunity to smash the image of good girl Rachel Green from FRIENDS. I just found the character pretty tasteless and not all that hilarious. Also I would like to see Jason Bateman not do another one of these for a while. His upcoming role in THE CHANGE UP is very similar. Bateman is an actor of considerable gifts. His performance in JUNO is testament to this. As he showed in ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT he can play the relatable good guy character while at the same time letting you see glimpses of the not-so-nice guy that he could be. It would be good to see him in something more challenging.
But I’m not a producer. Wearing my reviewer’s hat, I think HORRIBLE BOSSES is a bulletproof, crowd-pleasing comedy for audiences who like slick performances and fast-moving entertainment. It runs at 98 minutes and I rated it a 3.5/5.