Directed by Seth Gordon
Jason Bateman’s Nick is a hard-working go-getter up for a promotion to vice president, but the company president David Harken, played by Kevin Spacey, refuses to acknowledge Nick’s contribution to the company. Charlie Day’s Dale is a dental assistant, recently engaged, who is being hit upon by his sex-crazed dentist boss Julia (Jennifer Aniston). Jason Sudeikis’ Kurt has things slightly better at the chemical plant where he works until the owner he gets along with dies leaving his whacked-out son (Colin Farrell) in charge.
As the three friends get together to commiserate their respective work situations over drinks, they realize they have to stick it out, but as things get worse, they start speaking hypothetically about how to rid themselves of their problems. Taking a premise right from Hitchcock–or “Throw Momma from the Train” as the movie-conscious protagonists note–the three friends agree to kill each other’s bosses, turning to Jamie Foxx’s “Motherf*cker” Jones, a hired killer whose name alone allows for many laughs even in the most innocuous conversations.
Comprised of separate and distinct sections, the quality of the writing is evident from the way each guy and their respective overseer is introduced in a way that immediately allows you to relate to their situation. Even so, much of the film’s success has to be credited to director Seth (“The King of Kong”) Gordon and the perfect cast he’s assembled with not a single weak link in the bunch. The main three guys work so well together and seem like such a natural fit in a similar way as the four leads in “Seinfeld” with Charlie Day from “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” being the real standout. His high whiny voice may take some adjusting to for those who haven’t seen his show, but he clearly gets the funniest things to say and do in the movie. As always, Jason Sudeikis has a way of delivering the perfect wry line at just the right time to act as a running commentary to every hilarious hurdle they encounter. The give and take between Day and Sudeikis is near-perfect essentially leaving Jason Bateman playing the straight guy most of the time, setting things up for one of the other actors to knock them down.
Then there are the horrible bosses themselves. In the first ten minutes, they’re introduced in such a witty visual way you immediately know what you’re dealing with and that each of them will be taken to the funniest extreme. Sporting raven hair that automatically makes her seem sexier, Jennifer Aniston plays Dale’s boss, a dentist more interested in propositioning him for sex than fixing teeth, allowing her to have some of the raunchiest lines of the entire movie. Following her appearance in Adam Sandler’s movie earlier this year, Aniston shows she’s willing to take risks and it really becomes her to be taking on edgier roles like this. Similarly unrecognizable with potbelly and comb-over barely hiding his baldness, Colin Farrell’s performance as Bobby Pellitt, the coke-snorting whore-hiring reprobate who inherits his father’s chemical plant, is so over-the-top insane you may wonder where he’s pulling it from and why Farrell isn’t doing more comedy. His “Miami Vice” partner Jamie Foxx is almost low-key by comparison but his character shows up at just the rights times to keep the humor flowing. Kevin Spacey is the only boss returning to familiar territory, comfortable playing a boss with no redeeming values similar to his role in the underrated “Swimming with Sharks,” but he puts all of his acting chops into creating a character outrageous as the other two.
We won’t get into the specifics of what they end up doing and how things go wrong, but unlike so many comedies, “Horrible Bosses” piles on enough of the funny that it isn’t all telegraphed from the trailers and commercials. The six leads kill in every scene, but there are also smaller roles that help to mix thing up and prevent it from ever getting stale. Some of the gags work better than others, but all the jokes are really taken as far as they can due to the perfect timing of its three stars. The funky soundtrack by Christopher Lennertz does a great job creating the necessary flow from one bit to the next.
The second act drags a bit leading to a third act transition that adds a clever twist that takes things into darker territory, though that’s also where the already-complicated plot starts to unravel a bit, leading to a car chase that seems forced, there merely to add some much-needed action to the mix. Even so, the film is so perfectly-structured to make the most out of every joke with nothing wasted, as elements that seem to be done as throwaway filler return later to play a part in the resolution.
The Bottom Line: