The road to happiness is not an easy one. In the new comedy Horrible Bosses from director Seth Gordon (Four Holidays), three friends find that their respectively unbearable bosses are huge obstacles on that road. They have a simple solution. Murder their bosses. What could go wrong?
The answer, of course, is everything.
The film follows three initially separate story lines. Jason Bateman (Paul) is Nick Hendricks, a corporate salary man who has kept his head down and worked hard for his hard-ass boss Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey; Casino Jack). Nick expects a promotion for his years of hard work and loyalty, but Harken quickly shoots down his aspirations. Charlie Day (Going the Distance) plays Dale Arbus, a dentist who is constantly sexually harassed by his nymphomaniac boss Julia Harris (Jennifer Aniston; Just Go With It). Jason Sudeikis (Hall Pass) is Kurt Buckman, a mid-level manager who works at a company that has just been inherited by the drug-addled Bobby Pellitt (Colin Farrell; In Bruges).
We soon see that Nick, Dale and Kurt are all friends, and spend their evenings commiserating over beer about their terrible bosses. When the drunken idea of murdering their bosses is jokingly floated, it doesn’t take long for all three friends to start considering the proposal very seriously. Before they know it, the naive trio have hired a shady murder consultant and mayhem quickly ensues.
Despite its macabre premise, Horrible Bosses is a fairly conventional (read: classic) comedy. It follows in the footsteps of the wildly successful The Hangover, blending a buddy flick, a simple premise, and undiluted dirty humour together to make for a solid laugh-out-loud comedy flick. The film’s style is very frank, unvarnished and laced with plenty of salty language.
This is both a surprise and at the same time makes perfect sense when you discover that director Seth Gordon and writers Michael Markowitz, John Francis Daley, and Jonathan M. Goldstein are all relative newcomers to film. The writers have experience sprinkled across dozens of television sitcoms, and Gordon himself has mostly directed episodes of television comedy shows like Modern Family, Parks and Recreation and The Office. They bring a quirky comedic style from TV land that translates well to the silver screen.
But it’s the film’s cast and the comedic acting that makes Horrible Bosses shine. Bateman, Day and Sudeikis make for a great ensemble as the three friends. With distinctive personalities, they talk over one another, insult each other and egg each other on like real friends would. But it’s the “star-studded” actors who play the bosses that dominate the screen. Farrell is off-the-wall ridiculous as a cokehead douche, and Jennifer Aniston is (at long last) fresh, funny and near-unrecognisable as the sex-obsessed Julia. Both of them are completely over-the-top; more caricature then real character, and it suits the movie fine.
You could say Kevin Spacey trumps them all, however. His character is no less horrible or outrageous, but there’s a seething malice and realism to Harken that makes him all the more frightening and believable when he goes completely off the rails. The other bosses can be written off as crude stereotypes to poke fun at, yet Spacey’s brilliant portrayal of a ruthless, paranoid boss is uncomfortably realistic and at times downright frightening. No wonder there’s a plot to murder him.
Altogether, Horrible Bosses may not be ground-breaking comedy, but it is comedy. The laughs are there, from beginning to end, due to the undeniable chemistry the three leads share. The story is simple yet suitable, and with one notable exception, all the plot threads converge and resolve in a satisfying manner. It’s a breezy, enjoyable time at the movies…
Unless, of course, you happen to be a horrible boss in real life. In that case, stay well away. You might never trust your employees the same way again.