A relative newcomer to comedy, director Seth Gordon could easily have been way out of his depth with such a potentially strong cast. His previous work ranges from the critically acclaimed (The King of Kong, a documentary about players competing to beat high scores on classic arcade games) to the instantly forgettable (seasonal comedy Four Christmases). Luckily Horrible Bosses, undoubtedly his most high profile project, is a success due to the aforementioned casts camaraderie, a high hit rate of raunchy gags audiences have come to expect from R-rated comedies nowadays and a plot that, whilst it admittedly goes slightly off track, thoroughly entertains.
Nick (Jason Bateman, who seems to be getting everywhere these days) arrives at work every morning before sunrise. One day, however, he arrives 2 minutes late, an ‘offence’ which his boss Dave Harkin (an always brilliant Kevin Spacey) takes far too seriously. After being blackmailed and having his hopes of a promotion crushed, Nick and his two friends, who have equally horrible bosses, (it’s clear a lot of thought went into titling this movie) hypothetically devise a plan to kill them. As for Nick’s friends, Dale (Charlie Day, star of hit TV series It’s Always Sunny In Philidelphia) is trapped in a job, due to his criminal record, as a sex crazed dentist’s (Jennifer Aniston) assistant who continuously makes unwanted advances at him, even though he’s recently engaged. His other friend Kurt is the only one of the three that actually enjoys the job he has… until his boss (a short but sweet cameo from Donald Sutherland) dies, and the company is taken over by the previous bosses coke headed, psychotic son (Colin Farrell). After they bump into an old friend who’s fallen on hard times due to his job loss, the trio decide that quitting isn’t an option, and pursue the path of actually murdering their superiors. With their lack of expertise, they go about hiring a “murder consultant”, which predictably doesn’t go as well as anticipated, but that’s only the start of their problems.
I cannot reiterate enough just how much the cast makes this ‘work’; the chemistry between everyone is fantastic. Jason Bateman just about manages to earn the title of “lead role”, as there are a high number of the people involved that share the same screen time and gag rate. It’s simply due to his character that the conclusion was made that he was leading man; he seems to be the one making the decisions, or keeping calm and sane in otherwise chaotic situations. Spacey is delightfully sadistic and cruel as president of the company, and arguably is the only real horrible boss present. Whilst Jennifer Aniston is cringe worthy and hilarious as the ‘less-than-subtle’ eye candy, and Farrell is convincing as a heartless and party loving animal, they’re simply overpowered by Spacey’s presence and length of screen time. It’s unquestionable that he is the main focus, although each one does play a part in the bigger picture.
Charlie Day, who I’ve not really seen much of but he provides the largest number of one liners here, may have found his breakout movie role in Dale. It may not be a persona that is entirely original, but he plays it with such conviction and heart that, even though his boss is probably the least menacing (and overall not that bad.. right guys?) you feel sorry for him in his predicament. Kurt however, falls a little flat and seems to be a carbon copy of Stu from The Hangover series. There was always going to be comparisons, as it’s become the comedy standard for today’s generation, but Kurt is likely to be the biggest similarity.
You may want to skip the next paragraph if you’ve never seen this particular TV series, but the references to The Wire were undeniable. Well, to a Wire fan anyway. First, the barman in the ‘rough’ bar is Chad Coleman, better known as Dennis ‘Cutty’ Wise. Then, in what is certainly the most obvious reference, is Wendell Pierce as a Detective. Pierce played William ‘Bunk’ Moreland in the ground breaking show, and it’s brilliant to see him back in the spotlight. Furthermore, there’s the plot point of a tape recorder, and a character called Rhonda. I may be going a little insane, but for those who know me, they know my obsession with The Wire is more than a little worrying, therefore this paragraph had to be included.
The punch lines and scenarios may be seen as a little tame compared to The Hangover, but that doesn’t make it any less funny. My biggest issue with The Hangover 2 (and if you’ve read my review, you’ll know there were many of them) was that it tried to hard to shock. Here, the jokes flow, and the embarrassing situations never get out of hand. So in that respect, yes, it isn’t as boundary pushing as The Hangover, but that works in its favour.
The bottom line is, Horrible Bosses is hilarious. I’d predict that it’s not going to be financially successful, being sandwiched between Harry Potter, Cars 2, Transformers: Dark Of The Moon and Captain America. Which is unfortunate because it’s, in my opinion, the best of the bunch. Raunchy without crossing the line, funny without overstaying its welcome and surprisingly never too dark, Horrible Bosses is the perfect tonic after a hard days working for those titular figures.