The summer started out with a bang, in regards to comedy, and has slowly come to a whimper with disappointments like The Hangover: Part II and Bad Teacher. Thankfully, we’ve finally gotten an R-rated comedy to be proud of with director Seth Gordon’s Horrible Bosses. While not nearly as dark as other comedies, the laughs are abundant and the story is fun as hell. If you’re looking for a laugh, or have suffered at the hands of a horrible boss, then here’s the movie you’ve been searching for.
Horrible Bosses follows best friends Nick (Jason Bateman), Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) and Dale (Charlie Day). Each of them has a boss that makes their life a living hell, and while they can’t quit, they can’t make it through another day. So with the help of a mysterious “murder consultant” (Jamie Foxx), they decide to kill each other’s bosses and make their lives better. Unfortunately, things don’t go according to plan and the group is put at risk of being sent to jail.
It’s sad that the dark comedy doesn’t have a bigger presence in cinema. I’m a huge fan of dark comedies from the more overt like Very Bad Things, to the subtle like American Psycho. Horrible Bosses falls comfortably in-between, not too dark but with enough humor to make any dark events relatable. Everyone probably has their own story about an awful boss, although hopefully not to the extent of the three leads, but at times the movie is a cathartic piece about the recession itself. The three men hate their jobs but can’t quit for various reasons. Nick himself is a successful businessman but can’t quit because he would be forced to start at the bottom. This message is hilarious shown in the small character of Kenny (P.J. Byrne), a one-time big-shot at Lehman Brothers who’s now doing horrible favors for pocket money. Horrible Bosses does a fantastic and hilarious job of showing that one doesn’t have it so bad, and that everyone is stuck in a crappy position because of the economy…all of this from a film that includes a man washing his backside with a toothbrush!
It’s the humor that is the selling point for this movie and thankfully Horrible Bosses embraces its R-rating. Sure much of the humor derives from punctuating sentences with the F-word, literally exhibited with Jamie Foxx’s character Motherf***er Jones. Jones’ character shows off the movie’s awareness of how the use of language is a cop-out with the genre, but damn it if it doesn’t get a laugh. There’s also a fair dose of toilet humor, as mentioned above, and even humor that defies explanation like Charlie Day’s side-splitting rendition of The Ting Tings’ “That’s Not My Name,” emphasizing the movies need to not pigeon-hole or alienate its fan base. The bosses themselves are also delicious evil enough to make you hate them and laugh at them simultaneously and everyone will probably have their favorite boss.
The bosses and the heroes are all fantastic throughout this movie, with two actors stepping way out of their comfort zone. My personal favorite had to be Jennifer Aniston’s role as Julia, the dentist who sexually harasses Charlie Day’s Dale. With Julia, Aniston rips apart her nice-girl image and let’s loose with a character that is truly heinous. Whether she’s assaulting people in their sleep, or just talking about a disturbing sexual experience while watching Gossip Girl, Aniston delights in everything she does and says all her lines with a wink and a smile. My jaw hit the floor a few times hearing Aniston’s foul mouth. I vote that she gives up romantic comedies and just lets loose in more films because she is fantastic. The other actor who also blew me away was Colin Farrell, as the coked out boss to Sudiekis’ character Kurt. Farrell only has a few minutes of screen time but he delivers 150%, burying his good looks under a comb-over and a fake chest. Out of the three heroes, the one worthy of the most accolades has to be television star Charlie Day. I’ve never seen Day’s work on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia but this movie has inspired me to check it out. Day is so sweet and loveable as Dale, the dental assistant who just wants to be married to the woman he loves. Dale is the character that gets the most development, being dealt a bad hand and labeled a sex offender after a drunken piss at a playground in the middle of the night, as well as being made fun of by his friends for scorning the advances of his hot boss. Day conveys so much vulnerability as Dale that you just want to hug him, there’s a few times he even tears up from the stress which leads to laughs as well as “aw’s.”
The movie has a few flaws but really none that lessened the joy of the movie, just things that would have made the film tighter. Bateman, Sudeikis and Kevin Spacey have been stuck in acting ruts for awhile and don’t change up their images a bit with this film. Bateman continues to play the dull straight man, and while I enjoyed him cursing it wasn’t enough to make his character stand-out. Sudeikis plays the lovable Lothario while Spacey just recycles every bad guy character he’s ever played as Nick’s boss Dave. Also, as mentioned above, there’s zero character development on anyone except Dale. Dale states throughout he has a fiancée and she is seen once or twice played by Lindsay Sloane, but after the hour mark she disappears never to be seen again. Nick and Kurt have no development and are simply labeled two workaholics who haven’t had sex for awhile. You can understand why they stay at their jobs, but it’s hard to understand why they don’t have lives alongside them in comparison to Dale. The film also suffers from the “hold-back” syndrome seen in other comedies out this summer, the need to go to the edge and pull back. The first half of the movie is solely focused on getting these guys to kill their bosses and yet there’s a second act change up that makes all that moot. This is something that is plaguing comedies this summer, the fear of not going “too bad” for fear the audience won’t enjoy the stars. The film also dates itself with a Lehman Brothers joke, continuing the trend of Lehman Brothers jokes we’ve had for over a year….stick a fork in them, they’re done!
Honestly, the flaws are rather small in comparison to how much fun I had. I’m still chuckling over jokes and am anxious to see it again to hear things I missed since I was laughing so hard. I’d say pay to see the film solely for the presence of Aniston, Farrell and Day!
Author: Kristen Lopez, Editor in Chief
Kristen Lopez is the editor-in-chief of CC2K and a freelance pop culture essayist. Her work has appeared on Roger Ebert, The Hollywood Reporter, and The Daily Beast. When she’s not burning down Film Twitter she runs two podcasts, the female-centric film show Citizen Dame, and the classic film-themed Ticklish Business.