Okay. Admit it. At least once a month (week? day? hour?) you fantasize about killing your boss. Maybe even today after he had you rewrite that ad copy 50 times, then decided to use your first version, taking the credit, of course. Or maybe you had that vision yesterday when you were coming back from running errands—her errands—at the dry cleaners, drug store, and wine store, multi-tasking as you walked her dog.
Your worst nightmare, however, is winding up on the front page of the National Enquirer looking like a crazed employee (which you are, but who has to know?) Rather than plot the demise of your own boss, satisfy your inner demons by going to see the hilarious Horrible Bosses.
The film’s male trio—Nick Hendricks (Jason Bateman), Dale Arbus (Charlie Day), and Kurt Buckman (Jason Sudeikis)—are trapped in jobs with bosses from hell. Nick’s boss, Dave Harken, played with evil relish by Kevin Spacey, has perfected the carrot and stick approach, working Nick to death with the promise of a promotion at the financial firm. That bump up never happens (Harken awards himself with a second title and bigger office), and when Nick threatens to quit, Harken promises to blackball him in the industry.
Dale, a dental assistant, relieved himself in a children’s playground late at night and wound up being listed as a sex offender. The only dentist who will hire him is the sex-crazed Dr. Julia Harris, Jennifer Aniston, leaving her good girl image behind as she leers, gropes, undresses, and talks dirty. In other words, she’s perfect.
Kurt works for his dream boss, Jack Pellit (a grandfatherly Donald Sutherland), who, unfortunately, drops dead and leaves his company in the hands of his coke-snorting son, Bobby, played by an unrecognizable Colin Farrell. In an instant, Kurt’s great job goes to the crapper and he is joining his two friends in the complaints department.
Over beers at the local pub, they come up with the idea to get rid of their bosses. But how to get the job done? Despite all those episodes of Law & Order, the three are clueless. Riding around in Kurt’s car, they ask the GPS voice, Gregory, voiced by Maulik Pancholy, to find the most dangerous, violent bar. Fleeing for their lives after Kurt insults the African-American bartender, the men are approached by Motherfucker Jones, Jamie Foxx, hamming it up beautifully. He promises to get the job done for $5,000, a bargain price that should have sent up a big red flag.
They meet Motherfucker back in the bar, the $5,000 looking pathetically small in the large briefcase. Rather than an assassin, they get advice. It turns out that Motherfucker didn’t do “a dime” for murder but for video piracy. (He was caught illegally taping Snow Falling on Cedars in a theater). His movie knowledge leads him to recommend that Nick, Dale, and Kurt murder each other’s boss to avoid being linked to the crime with a motive. Sound familiar?
The three set out to gather intelligence on the three targets and soon, chaos ensues. There are near misses, close calls, mistaken identities, fingerprints, DNA, and, eventually, a murder and a body.
While the cast is terrific, kudos should go to the screenwriters, Michael Markowitz, John Francis Daley, and Jonathan Goldstein, for a script that keeps the humor coming without resorting to clichés. Sight gags are liberally employed, but never at the expense of the plot or the dialogue. And it must be said that the film more than earns its R rating for “crude and sexual content, pervasive language, and some drug material.” Don’t bring the kids, but your gram and gramps will find it a hoot. (The elderly woman next to us couldn’t stop laughing).
Bateman, Day, and Sudeikis play off each other with such ease it’s hard to believe they haven’t worked together before. Bateman is the perfect straight man, a mean feat given that some of the situations he finds himself in are so ridiculous, he has to struggle not to laugh. (Stay for the credits where the outtakes show he didn’t always succeed). Day is all nervous energy, particularly when he’s trying to escape Aniston’s clutches by climbing over a sedated patient. Sudeikis, another break out star from SNL, is the master of the deadpan, justifying how he ended up bedding Dr. Harris when he was supposed to spy on her without being detected.
Spacey’s Harken epitomizes the boss we all love to hate. He terrorizes his staff and enjoys watching them shake. Spacey won’t add to his Oscar total with this role, but it’s obvious he’s having a hell of a time. Jamie Foxx, another Oscar winner, has become such an icon that even when he’s acting, we still see Jamie Foxx. He’s in just a few scenes here, but we’ll take whatever he can give.
The big surprise here is Aniston, finally choosing a role that allows her to do something besides repeating her Friends persona. Her Dr. Harris borders on raunchy and we never doubt for a minute that she means what she says. In 2002’s The Good Girl, Aniston gave a beautiful, nuanced performance as a bored 30 year-old retail worker who has an affair with a younger guy played by Jake Gyllenhaal. The woman can act! What she can’t do is select the right vehicles. This film is not enough to get her back on track, but it may help audiences to better appreciate her talents.
Horrible Bosses is the perfect summer movie in a lineup of lackluster action flicks and lame comedies. Beyond that, the film’s timing is perfect. The unemployed, the underemployed, the overlooked, and the underappreciated will flock to this film. There are lots of horrible bosses out there and too many workers working too hard for too little. At least for a few hours, they can leave all that behind and enjoy a good laugh.
Opens July 8, 2011