Thursday, July 7, 2011
Review: "Horrible Bosses"
"Horrible Bosses" had me, and then it lost me, and then it got me back again. This often clever, sporadically vexing comedy takes the premise of Alfred Hitchcock's "Strangers on a Train" and turns it into a horny goofball affair. Not that that's necessarily a bad thing.
Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day play three working stiffs who each have what the title says they have. They resolve to kill their evil bosses, with each doing another's boss to throw off suspicion.
Of course, because they're angsty modern men rather than calculating killers, they mess the whole thing up and get into a bunch of comedic scrapes -- or one big one, depending on how you count it.
I enjoyed the set-ups as we meet the bosses, learn the trio's personalities and how they mesh. The section where they slowly come around to the idea of offing their supervisors, try to find a hit man and ultimately resolve to do the deed themselves isn't very funny, and seemed to go on and on.
Director Seth Gordon and his trio of screenwriters needed to give this script another wash or two.
But once the movie hit its stride during one long night of hi jinks, it's a decent enough laugh-fest to garner it a marginal letter of recommendation.
Bateman, the rare child star who turned into a fine adult actor, has a very specific sense of comic timing. He usually plays variations on the same character -- the precise, easily perturbed and slightly anal-retentive nice guy who is vexed by the vagaries of others. In this case it's Dave Harken, played by Kevin Spacey riffing on his "Swimming with Sharks" character. Bateman plays Nick, who's been busting his hump for eight years to land a promotion ... one guess if he gets it.
The archenemy of Kurt (Sudeikis) is his boss' son, a coke-head with a horrid comb-over played by Colin Farrell. When the old man bites it, the son is put in charge and demands that people be fired to squeeze more profits out of the company to fuel his partying. Sounds like some newspaper executives I know.
Most people would not acknowledge Dale's (Day) problem as a real dilemma. A recently engaged dental technician, Dale is being sexually harassed by his dentist, Julia, improbably played by Jennifer Aniston. Julia's favorite trick is to knock her patients out with gas and then try to grope her subordinate.
My problem with these bosses is that they're all cartoons. They do not exist anywhere outside a Hollywood screenplay. Take Aniston's Julia. She could have any man she desired, so why would she pick on the short, hirsute and excitable Dale? It's like she has a hobbit fetish or something.
Farrell's character, Bobby, has the potential to be the most interesting, with his complete lack of empathy for fellow humans and a house crammed full of pinball machines and paintings of himself. ("A douche bag museum," Nick dubs it.) Unfortunately, the movie spends the least amount of time with him, so don't get to know him well enough to truly hate him.
Spacey's a treat playing nasty, since he does it so well. Jamie Foxx turns up as a heavily tattooed con with a colorful name.
"Horrible Bosses" isn't horrid, and sometimes it feels like punching a clock. But there's more good than tedious, and having to watch it didn't make me hate my job.
2.5 stars out of four