20 July 2011

Movie Review: Horrible Bosses


B+

Horrible Bosses
2011, 98mins, 15
Director: Seth Gordon
Writer (s): Michael Markowitz, Jonathan M. Goldstein, John Francis Daley
Cast includes: Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston, Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell, Jamie Foxx
UK Release Date: 22nd July 2011

It may not be high art but “Horrible Bosses” is still an incredibly funny film. Director Seth Gordon makes the most of a tremendous cast here, blending the usual bromantic angles with lashings of black humour and an affinity for vulgarity. I imagine on paper the picture was a considerably more macabre affair, “Horrible Bosses” in practice actually establishing a fairly goofy tone. The film refuses to take itself seriously, instead leaving it up to a group of solid comics and a trio of energetic Hollywood stalwarts to carry the picture through. There are moments of subversive madness, but generally “Horrible Bosses” is content to play as a crowd-pleaser, and left me pleased it certainly did.

Dale (Charlie Day), Nick (Jason Bateman) and Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) are best friends who share a common problem; their bosses are ruining their lives. Nick is baited with promises of promotion by his egotistical superior Harken (Kevin Spacey), only to be regularly disappointed and berated. Kurt has to tolerate the leadership of immoral cokehead Bobby (Colin Farrell), sitting in awe as the incompetent lout slowly destroys his own business. Dale on the other hand has a much more intimate set of concerns, namely the inappropriate and sexually charged advances of dentist Julia Harris (Jennifer Aniston), a woman who frivolously disregards the existence of Dale’s fiancĂ©e (Lindsay Sloane in blink and you’ll miss her mode). The guys finally agree that killing those responsible for their misery is the only option, recruiting the help of criminal Motherfucker Jones (Jamie Foxx, adding to the fun nicely) as a result. Soon the boys have a plan in motion, but unsurprisingly their attempts at murder don’t run smoothly.

Utilizing a witty stream of gross-out content, “Horrible Bosses” is able to supply a respectable roster of throaty chuckles. Seth Gordon (2007’s superb “King of Kong” and 2008’s less admirable “Four Christmases”) isn’t a visionary filmmaker, but he possesses decent comic timing and gets the most from his game cast. The movie plugs some unsavory topics to maintain a semi-edgy vibe, which setting aside the bloodthirsty central conceit also include rape, a specific form of male prostitute and the application of numerous bathroom appliances to one character’s anus. It’s a broad sweep of gags for sure, but thanks to some nice improvisational moments and a fundamental understanding of what’s funny, “Horrible Bosses” delivers more bawdy guffaws than any other recent studio comedy.

The cast are phenomenal, amongst the key participants there’s no clear weak link. Charlie Day’s shrillness is a tad annoying in parts, but his manic energy is a sound compensator. Sudeikis and Bateman handle most of the subtler comedy and enjoy the best riffs, the trio of performers maintaining an easy and organic chemistry throughout. Of course all of the bosses are in a showboating mood, Farrell and Aniston playing their roles as live action cartoons. For Aniston her work here is a refreshing career first, the actress embracing her darker side by dabbling in mild nudity and displaying a disgraceful but totally amusing potty-mouth. Spacey on the other hand opts for something a little steelier and more believable, ratcheting up the psychotic menace with every subsequent sequence. He’s not afraid to get silly, but Spacey always has one eye on providing genuine threat, a nuanced choice which grants the picture a kick during its flagging finale.

The screenplay isn’t fixated on characterization or even nimble storytelling, by its conclusion “Horrible Bosses” even feels kind of jumbled. The picture works its way to a predictable climax, which sadly relies on one of the property’s weaker gags (poking fun at Indian phone operators doesn’t feel very original). The journey to that destination however is highly entertaining, even if it doesn’t always flow naturally from an editorial standpoint. The film’s other technical attributes are fine, the cinematography and music selections adequate despite being indistinctive.

It’s probably not distinguished enough to be considered a genre classic, but “Horrible Bosses” deserves attention and kudos none the less. It’s a production that aims to have you giggling; the fact it largely achieves this modest goal is reason enough to recommend it. Will “Horrible Bosses” change the way you perceive life, culture or art? I’d really like to hope not. Will it however leave you with a big smile plastered across your face? You betcha.
A Review by Daniel Kelly, 2011

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