I’d like to begin this review with a shout-out to everyone — past and present — who’s worked for my parents at Double Vision Inc. Some have been my pals, some have been my coworkers and all have been like family to me. I treasure their friendship, I’m thankful for their service and most of all, I’m relieved to know that so many of them appear satisfied with their working conditions. Especially after this movie.
It’s been a very slow weekend at the movies. Transformers: Dark of the Moon is pretty much the only game in town right now, since all the other studios were apparently smart enough to stay the hell out of its way. The result is a welcome breather in what’s otherwise been a very packed summer. The only other new releases out right now are a Tom Hanks rom-com vehicle, a Kevin James talking animal POS and Horrible Bosses.
I only chose to see one of those three films. I feel like it was the right choice.
Let’s start by meeting our characters. We open with Nick (Jason Batman) who muses through voice-over about how the only way to get ahead in this world seems to be through taking abuse from those who sign our paychecks. Now that we have the film’s thesis statement out of the way, let’s continue.
Nick has been busting his ass for eight years, suffering untold amounts of emotional and psychological torment the whole way, just to earn a promotion and his own office. In return for this decade of hard work, Nick’s boss (Dave Harken, played by Kevin Spacey) gives himself the promotion, the office and the pay raise. Oh, and Nick can’t do anything about it because Harken will do everything in his considerable power to make sure that Nick can’t work anyplace else.
Next up is Kurt, played by Jason Sudeikis. He has the great fortune to work at a job he loves under a sympathetic employer… who dies within the first fifteen minutes. For whatever reason, the old man left the business to his son, Bobby Pellitt (Colin Farrell), who absolutely hated his father and everyone who worked for him. Consequently, Bobby’s agenda consists of running his new factory into the ground after milking it for all the money, hookers and blow that it’s worth. Dale is very tempted to quit until he runs into an old friend who used to work for Lehman Brothers. Hilarity ensues.
Last but not least is Dale, played by Charlie Day. His problem is that he’s always facing sexual harassment from Dr. Julia Harris, D.D.S., his constantly horny boss. If you fail to see the problem in being Jennifer Aniston’s boy toy, you’re not alone: Dale’s friends, Nick and Kurt, are constantly giving him crap about this. Then again, Dale is recently engaged to a very sweet and attractive girl, so there’s that. Also, due to a completely innocent mix-up, Nate is a registered sex offender.
To recap, we have three different types of dunces working for a power-mad bully, a rapist bitch and an egomaniacal cokehead. Naturally, our protagonists come to the only logical conclusion: Kill their bosses.
The premise works for two reasons. First is that Spacey, Aniston and Farrell don’t even try to pretend that they’re playing human beings. They’re playing cruel mockeries of humanity. These are demons so one-dimensional and so unrepentantly evil that no decent person would ever shed a tear for them. This makes our protagonists instantly sympathetic, since we can relate to their positions under godawful employers and we can root for their success. Yet our sympathy for them ends there.
This leads me to the second reason why the premise works: Our main characters are completely incompetent. Nick is a worrywart, Dale is a hyperactive idiot and Kurt thinks almost entirely with his dick. There’s a lot about these characters to dislike, so we’re allowed some emotional detachment — and thus, humor — when they screw up. Additionally, the premise wouldn’t be remotely funny if we were dealing with people who could actually commit triple homicide with any degree of efficiency. This movie never lets us or the protagonists forget that they’re conspiring to commit murder and they should rightfully be sent to prison for it. Then again, the bosses also deserve to die, so we the audience win either way!
As a result, when someone in this movie dies or gets sent to prison — oh, it happens — the result is always amusing and satisfying. It also helps that the screenplay is wonderfully clever, with all manner of moments that are hilarious in how unexpected they are. The crass humor is limited almost entirely to the Julia/Dale interplay and Kurt’s horny antics, though there’s also an unrelated offer for a disgusting sexual act (which may not count, since the offer was refused). The humor can also be very heightened, such as Dale’s averse reaction to cocaine dust and Harken’s outrageously violent behavior (seriously, that truck just came out of nowhere!). In general, the comedy is all about setting up these unsympathetic characters and knocking them down for their transgressions. It’s humorous and fun to watch without insulting the audience’s intelligence. Great stuff.
It also helps that this movie has so much talent in its cast. Donald Sutherland, Ioan Gruffudd, Isaiah Mustafa, Wendell Pierce, Ron White, Chad Coleman and Bob Newhart all play supporting roles with various amounts of screen time and all of them elevate the film simply by showing up. Easily the most prominent among them is Jamie Foxx, who helps our trio plan their murder conspiracy. The less I say beyond that, the better.
Our lead actors are all amazing as well. Jason Bateman has long since established himself as a gifted comedic straight man, and he brings those gifts to this movie with great effect. Charlie Day makes himself the very picture of a squirrel with ADD and Jason Sudeikis is alarmingly good at going from likeable to perverted and back again. As for the villains, Harken is played with cold, psychotic fury that only Spacey could deliver. Bobby, meanwhile, is a character so impossibly douchey that even Collin Farrell — himself a famous womanizer and drug addict — would look at the guy and say “DAMN, son!” As for Jennifer Aniston, I’ve always thought that she could only ever be a pretty face, tabloid fodder and Rachel, without the acting talent to be anything else. Fortunately, Julia only needed an actress who could chew scenery and look sexy, so the role fit perfectly into Aniston’s wheelhouse.
Horrible Bosses is an intelligent and mature R-rated comedy about a group of unintelligent and immature men. Come to think of it, maybe the $250.8 million worth of people who went to see The Hangover Part II should have saved their money to see this instead. Anyway, the writing in this film is sharp, the cast is phenomenal from top to bottom and the whole film is loaded with extremely funny dark humor. Go see it.