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Review: Horrible Bosses (2011)

Horrible Bosses (2011)

Directed by: Seth Gordon  

Premise: Three men conspire to kill each other’s boss.

What Works: There are a few laughs in Horrible Bosses and they are found in the three actors cast as the antagonistic supervisors. Kevin Spacy is in Swimming With Sharks-mode as the manipulative administrator of a financial services firm and among the title characters he is given the most to work with and delivers the most menace. The two other horrible bosses of this film work because the actors are cast against type. Jennifer Aniston, who usually plays the good girl, is cast as a sexually aggressive dentist who constantly harasses and even assaults her male underling. The film makes this subplot work because it plays up the absurd quality of it. If the gender roles were reversed it would just be creepy, but by casting Aniston in the role, giving her very profane dialogue, and creating tension between her demands and her target’s commitment to his fiancé, the film achieves its comedic intentions. The comedy revelation in this film is Colin Farrell as a coke addicted brat who inherits his father’s chemical company. Farrell has usually been cast in serious and suave roles as cops or hit men, so to see him as a tacky and disgusting pencil pusher with a comb-over elicits a few laughs.

What Doesn’t: The main problem with Horrible Bosses, which ultimately sinks the film, is its unappealing main characters. Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, and Kurt Buckman are cast as the subordinates to these terrible people but none of their characters are very likable and so it is impossible for the audience to take their side, which is critical if the main characters are going to commit murder. Buckman is particularly obnoxious; his character is supposed to be some kind of ladies’ man but the actor does not display any qualities that would lead the audience to believe that. A secondary flaw of Horrible Bosses is its clumsy handling of the three plotlines. The three scenarios do not have equal weight; Buckman’s character justifies his planned assassination in order to save the company and the lives of his coworkers, but Day is just trying to avoid having sex and Bateman’s character is motivated only by a personal vendetta.  This disparity in the character’s interests hurts the movie and prevents the audience from empathizing with the desires of the main characters. After the three flunkies commit to kill their bosses, the story does not present interesting scenarios that increase the tension or develop the ethical dilemmas that Bateman, Day, and Buckman’s characters encounter later. Horrible Bosses’ failure to conclude in a meaningful way is a result of a film with too many balls in the air. Spacy and Farrell’s characters are credibly intertwined but the film suffers from the Aniston plotline, which distracts from the other two stories. Horrible Bosses stops dead whenever it deals with this plotline and as funny as it is, it prevents the film from coming to a satisfying resolution.

Bottom Line: Horrible Bosses is another comedy aimed at being ostentatiously bad but there is a difference between meaningfully breaking taboos and just flaunting stupid behavior. Like Bad Teacher and Hall Pass, Horrible Bosses does the latter. It aims for the black comedy of World’s Greatest Dad, Thank You For Smoking, and Match Point but it falls short.

Episode: #348 (July 17, 2011)