For Nick (Jason Bateman), Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) and Dale (Charlie Day), the only thing that would make the daily grind more tolerable would be to grind their intolerable bosses into dust. Quitting is not an option, so, with the benefit of a few-too-many drinks and some dubious advice from a hustling ex-con, the three friends devise a convoluted and seemingly foolproof plan to rid themselves of their respective employers…permanently. There’s only one problem: even the best laid plans are only as foolproof as the brains behind them.
While the premise for Horrible Bosses starts off as a simplistic and mundane everyday comedy, it quickly (and welcomely) develops into something far more devilish and sinister. Screenwriters Michael Markowitz, John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein may not bring a whole lot of plausibility or realism to the table, and you may find yourself scratching your head at the film’s outlandish ideas, but their zealous efforts go towards creating something bold, eccentric and ahead of the game.
The central trio of Bateman, Day and Sudeikis is what really bolsters this comedy. Their characters are vastly different but gel so well together, bouncing off one another with an incredible charm and quick wit. Bateman has sharpened his skill to deliver a raw comedic performance, and Sudeikis is solidly on-from. Out of the three though, it’s Day who truly stands out, doing so at every available opportunity. His rapport with Aniston in particular is expertly acted.
In terms of the bosses, and in that respect the main supporting cast, Kevin Spacey owns his role. Obviously in performance euphoria, he rabidly shoots off abuse like he’s been waiting his whole career to play this slave-driving psycho. Though shamefully kept in the background, Colin Farrell entirely embraces his less than flattering physical transformation, along with a daft vocabulary and racist sensibilities. As for Jennifer Aniston, she has finally been cast against type as the nymphomaniac Dr. Harris, dropping one hysterical vulgarity after another. Rachel Green is no more, and Aniston has a whole lot more to offer as an actress than most cinemagoers have been led to believe. She has, for better or worse, well and truly shed her good girl image.
As a director, Gordon fares very well. On the back of his outstanding documentary The King Of Kong: A Fistful Of Quarters, Four Christmases was a clear career misstep. To Horrible Bosses, however, he has brought unabashed zany humour, immersive interspersed drama and an offbeat directing style: techniques clearly built up during his time spent making documentaries and working on veteran television comedies, such as 30 Rock. In short: a perfect mix for welcomely off-kilter comedy film.
The two most noticeable flaws of Horrible Bosses, however, are that it never fully measures up to its outrageously dark premise, and that it ends up feeling borderline offensive at times. The film does provide elements of dark comedy, finding humour in scenes of death, mutilation and drug use, but it’s played all too cosily and light-hearted, never evoking the desired reaction. Also, however fun it is to watch Dr. Harris sexually harass Dale and hear how much Kurt wants to sleep with every living female, it often comes across as crass and degrading, and can be uncomfortable to watch.
That said, Horrible Bosses is still frequently hilarious, with laughs arriving both hard and often once the film finds its feet, thanks in no part to the sharply written script and enthusiasm evident in the well selected cast. There are even times when it sets itself up as a new favourite for the workplace comedy genre in the vein of Office Space or Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy, but it ultimately falls short and feels miles away from its courageously crazy premise. Nevertheless, it’s a well-intended and laugh-out-loud comedy worth a chance.