Review: “Horrible Bosses” (2011)

Colin Farrell and Jason Sudeikis in "Horrible Bosses"

As a friend astutely pointed out a few weeks ago, Horrible Bosses is basically 9 to 5 times three. While the classic workplace revenge comedy offered one sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot in Franklin M. Hart, Jr., Bosses splits its Big Bad into three separate assholes, presumably in the interest of adding a Strangers on a Train-style twist to the formula and stacking the cast with more comedy all-stars.

The results play out in a suitably entertaining fashion that is aided considerably by solid comedic performances from the six leads and some surprising supporting players.  So while the classic water-cooler revenge scenario may have been stripped of its feminist bite and much of its dark, homicidal potential, it’s still a perfectly funny ride through the sketchier neighborhoods of the working man’s mind.

The basic setup: Three friends played by Jason Sudeikis, Jason Bateman, and Charlie Day have really awful bosses, played by Colin Farrell, Kevin Spacey, and Jennifer Aniston. They hatch a plan to kill them off in order to improve the quality of their own lives, and the plan goes all cuckoobananas, to predictably hilarious results.

Thankfully, the assembled cast is likable and clever enough to squeeze plenty of laughs from what is otherwise ultimately a fairly toothless script (it’s not a dark comedy, by any stretch – so don’t go in expecting Heathers). Among the titular terrors, Farrell seems to be having the most fun but unfortunately gets the least screen-time – I would have liked to have seen a lot more of his coke-fiend trust-fund douchebag character (with or without terrible comb-over and padded belly).

As far as our heroes go, Charlie Day (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) steals the show as the ferrety, put-upon Dale, whose recent engagement is put in danger by his sexually aggressive and over-tanned boss (Aniston). He’s believable, likable, and kind of adorable in that needs-a-good-vacuuming kind of way, and he easily walks away with the most laughs, particularly after a Corky Romano-esque scene where he and Bateman (also good in his trademark underselling way) accidentally inhale a sizable portion of their intended victim’s cocaine stash.

I was also delighted to see Jamie Foxx doing comedy again (and very well) after what seems to be about a decade of dramas, actioners and questionable forays into pop music. His Motherfucker Jones is awesome and probably deserves his own movie more than Bosses deserves a sequel.

Other unexpected appearances include Modern Family‘s Julie Bowen as Spacey’s well-heeled wife, Donald Sutherland as Sudeikis’s mentor (in his best cameo since Beerfest), and Freaks and GeeksJohn Frances Daley, who also co-wrote the script. And King of Kong director Seth Gordon makes a massive jump in comedy directing chops after his abysmal first narrative feature, Four Christmases.

Though mostly predictable (Aniston is filthy! Spacey has crazy-person dead eyes! As murderers, the main trio are out of their depth!), there are enough amusing casual asides, recurring jokes and fresh physical gags to keep things moving along at an enjoyable clip. Is it as brilliant as Bridesmaids? No, but it’s a hell of a lot better than The Hangover 2.

While Bosses may ultimately play things rather safe regarding its central premise, it’s nice to see that this summer offers at least one genuinely funny guy comedy where the humor isn’t rooted in what assholes they all are.


Horrible Bosses is Rated R for adult language, violence, and Jennifer Aniston Like You’ve Never Seen Her Before!

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