Horrible Bosses doesn't fall victim to the trap most raunchy R-rated comedies fall into of relying on filthy language to shock the audience into laughter. Sure, there's plenty of cussing and R-rated language, but the jokes are not dependent on that shock factor. Horrible Bosses is one of the funniest films of the year because of the set-ups and terrific performances from some very funny people. The fact the language is racy lends to the comedy but isn't the basis for all the laughs.
Aniston, Farrell and Spacey are the horrible bosses of the title, but this is actually a film centering around the antics of Jason Sudeikis, Jason Bateman and Charlie Day's characters. And Sudeikis, Bateman, and Day are quite a formidable comedy team. Nick (Bateman) is the voice of reason, Kurt (Sudeikis) believes he's the brains behind the operation, while Dale (Day) is that crazy friend you want to trust, you want to believe isn't always going to do the exact opposite of what he should, but who constantly acts with a complete disregard for logic. The three buddies believe their bosses deserve to die and, as we get to know these guys, we completely sympathize with what they're going through and don't dislike them for wanting to take the drastic step of offing their bosses.
First up is Nick whose horrible boss is Dave Harken (Spacey), a micromanaging jerk. Dave's the sort of boss who turns the tiniest infraction into a cause for termination, who accuses stand-up employee Nick of being an alcoholic after pouring him a stiff drink at 8:15am and forcing him to chug it down. Dave dangled a promotion over Nick's head, made him work weekends, miss his grandmother's funeral, and then after leading him on for months he awarded himself the promotion. Nick can't quit because Dave's threatened to call any potential employers and lie about Nick's job performance. The bottom line: Nick's ready to make Dave pay.
Kurt's his boss' favorite employee, a fact which angers the boss' cokehead son. Bobby Pellit (Farrell) loves martial arts, loose women, his comb-over, and drugs - not necessarily in that order. He hates everything to do with his dad's company, except the money it makes that allows him to stay well-stocked with cocaine. When circumstances change and Bobby becomes the head of the company, life at work becomes sheer hell. The bottom line: Kurt is also ready to take action and get rid of his boss.
And Dale...well, his friends tease him about his relationship with his boss, the sexually aggressive, hot and nasty dentist, Dr. Julia Harris (Aniston). Julia hooks her patients up to gas and then spends the minutes/hours while they're knocked out hitting on Dale, touching him inappropriately and threatening to show his fiancee incriminating photos if he doesn't have sex with her. She's a beast, a dentist who loves 'drilling', and she's got an insatiable appetite for sex. And because Dale made a major mistake by peeing outdoors in a park, he's been tagged with the sexual predator label and can't get another job. The bottom line: Dale wants Julia dead and gone.
But actually doing the deed is more difficult than just talking the talk. After learning the hard way not to use 'Men Seeking Men' ads to find a hitman, they connect with Motherf--ker Jones (Jamie Foxx). He's fresh out of jail and for $5000 he'll get rid of the horrible bosses - or so the guys believe. But it turns out all he's willing to do is be their murder consultant, so once again the actual task of killing their bosses is back in their hands. To do the job they'll need to research, plan, prepare, and execute the perfect untraceable murders. But the question remains: when it comes right down to it, can they actually go through with it?
Bateman perfected this character on Arrested Development and seeing him play this guy who tries to retain his balance when everyone around him is spiraling out of control just makes me hope that Arrested Development movie is still in the works. (Please...pretty please.)
Sudeikis, whose character has a hard time controlling his sexual urges even in the most inappropriate circumstances, is incredibly likable as a hard-working guy who hates his drug-addicted boss. You want to hang with him, and when he proposes stupid ideas, you're willing to go along with him because he just seems so convincing. But it's Day who's the stand-out of this bunch. He's crazy good as the kind of slow, earnest, and gullible target of Jennifer Aniston's attention. However, while Day's got the best lines and the best physical comedy bits, Horrible Bosses works because the three lead actors click. They bicker like an old married couple; they scheme and shout and generally get on each other's nerves, but they also never fail to stick up for each other. They're not just friends, they're comrades in crime, willing to stick together through thick and through thin. And the further they get into the planning of the three-way murder, the more the friction increases and the heartier the laughs generated by their antics become.
Aniston's never been funnier than she is as a raunchy, sex-crazed dentist. Darkening her hair and showing off her gorgeous figure, this is an Aniston we've never seen before - and frankly had no clue existed. She's never even hinted she had this boundary-obliterating character in her, and hopefully this won't be the last time she does something completely unexpected rather than retreating into her typical romantic comedy fare. And just as with Aniston, who would have thought of Farrell as a balding boss who hates fat people and is freaked out by an employee in a wheelchair? Farrell hardly ever gets to show off his funny side (if you didn't catch him in In Bruges, rent it now), and he totally disappears into the role of a skeevy coke addict.
We knew Spacey had this evil creature in him as Dave's basically Spacey's Swimming with Sharks character aged up. Dave Harken is a major creep who makes your skin crawl, and Spacey plays this sadistic boss incredibly well.
The Bottom Line
2011 hasn't been the best year for comedies with more misses than hits thus far (Your Highness, Larry Crowne, etc). And Horrible Bosses feels a little disjointed at times and there are side characters who sort of float in and out that could have been explored further. But for the most part Horrible Bosses delivers on its promises, unlike most of 2011's comedy offerings. It's crude and rude, and the R-rating is well-deserved, but it's also really entertaining. Horrible Bosses is a funny, high-energy film packed with terrific performances. It also offers anyone who's ever experienced a sadistic boss to live out their fantasy of revenge in a completely harmless fashion, and that's not a bad reason in and of itself to check Horrible Bosses out.
Horrible Bosses was directed by Seth Gordon and is rated R for crude and sexual content, pervasive language and some drug material.
Theatrical Release: July 8, 2011
Also of Interest: Top 10 Comedies of 2011