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Friday, July 15, 2011

Horrible Bosses

Rating: ★★★

Cry me a *beep* river, Charlie. 

Part of my process for reviewing whatever it is I watch, I sit down and read as much about the film as possible - be it production notes, or other reviews. Reading other reviews for Horrible Bosses, I’m surprised that the film has taken off as well as it has. Certified “fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes at 75%, and many critics have given it three-four stars. Note - this of course doesn’t mean that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy the movie. It’s a comedy perfectly suited to my tastes, even if a bit sloppily executed. In the realm of “awful workplace” comedies, it falls just short of the greatness achieved by 9 to 5 or Office Space (the granddaddy of them all). Still, though, even on reflection, Horrible Bosses takes pinches of both and creates something unique to itself.

More after the cut--

Movies like these are always about the supporting cast; never about the stars, so to speak. And given that this film is one of those rare, perfectly cast films, the supporting cast is given far more room to shine than it should have any right to. I’ve seen it noted that the roles are tailored to play to the actors’ strengths. And that’s true. Given that the film is a black comedy, the roles have specific bits of drama mixed in with the comedy. Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston, and Colin Farrell co-star as the ‘horrible bosses’, and knock their roles out of the park. Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, and Jason Sudeikis are their respective employees, and they bring the dry balance to the over-the-top comedy. The film is extremely slickly written, and director Seth Gordon has a firm handle on the dark overtones. 

The film opens with Nick Hendricks (Jason Bateman), a middle manager, running almost exactly two minutes late for work. He pushes paper for Kevin Spacey’s vile Dave Harken - and is in line for a big promotion. Dale (Charlie Day) is a dental assistant working for the man-eater Dr. Julia Harris, DDS (Jennifer Aniston) who sexually harasses him to a point of insanity. Realistically speaking, how she’s not in jail is beyond me. But, we need a movie, so logic takes a backseat (per usual). Kurt Buckman (Jason Sudeikis) is the top dog underneath Jack Pellitt’s (Donald Sutherland) wing at a chemical production company, until through a brief series of events, Jack’s son Bobby (an unrecognizable Colin Farrell) takes over. Bobby Pellitt is a cocaine using, stripper loving, party machine. 

The three embittered employees decide to take their happiness and their careers into their hands, and dispatch of their bosses the best ways they don’t know how - to kill them. And, like in all “best laid plans” films, they need someone to tell them how to do it. In a dirty, dark bar, they meet “Mother… “ Jones (Jamie Foxx), a hardened criminal who did a dime for some real nasty stuff. He agrees to be their murder consultant (in a neat, completely subtle nod to Foxx’s film Law Abiding Citizen) for a mere five grand. 

Truth be told, there isn’t really any reason for this film to exist. If I had to pick one, it’d be that Jennifer Aniston needed a hit, and a chance to remind people that she can actually act. Like I said before, these types of films are usually about the supporting cast, and if they aren’t pitch perfect, the film is broken. Thankfully, all involved were up to the task. The film’s screenplay takes a turn for the dramatic toward the last half, but never loses its grip on its own comedic reality it had set up. If the film actually took itself seriously, it would fail. Though, as horrible as the bosses are, it would have better served the film if it had been a touch more realistic. That, however, is the pratfall of black comedy/satire/what have you. Not everyone can get every moment right. The moments the film does get right though? Comic gold. Black gold, if you will.