Everyone has had a boss that they hate, or who hates them, which is why workplace comedies are such a solid investment for movie studios. Even if they don’t break the bank at the box office, enough people will go to see a movie about getting back at a bad boss for it to break even, simply because seeing a movie is less likely to land you in jail than pranking your own boss. But there are only so many ways to tell the same story. After 9 to 5, Office Space and multiple seasons of The Office, I wondered if Horrible Bosses would have anything new to say. The storyline didn’t look promising.
Three idiots who are forced to work for a narcissistic slave driver, a insensitive cokehead, and a nymphomaniac blackmailer conspire to murder each others’ bosses.
Idiocy is usually a factor in workplace comedies, so the main difference seemed to be the Strangers on a Train aspect of the story. After having seen the movie, however, I can also report that they’ve added a layer of raunchiness usually reserved for R rated comedies like The Hangover. This could have made it jarring (swearing and blatant sexual references tend to be frowned upon in the workplace) but actually made it really funny.
The three characters each have their own niche. Nick (Jason Bateman) is an office worker. His boss, Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey) is a jealous, slave driving, psycho who manipulates Nick like the stringed puppet that he is. Meek and proper, Nick can only take so much before he cracks. He’s generally the one whose head remains screwed on the tightest (though they’ve all got a few screws loose if you know what I mean). Nick is probably also the closest to how we ourselves would act in a similar situation, which I guess makes him the “straight man.”
In real life, I believe the technical term is “carpet.”
In any group of movie male friends, there must always be one who gets all the ladies. In Horrible Bosses this is Kurt (improbably played by former SNLer Jason Sudekis). Kurt is an account manager at a chemical company. He loves his job, but his thoughts quickly turn to murder when his sweet old boss Mr. Pellet (Donald Sutherland) dies and leaves the business in the hands of his cokehead son Bobby (Colin Farrell). Prior to this movie, I never really liked Jason Sudekis, but this movie warmed me up to him considerably.
He may even seem slightly cute, given that Colin Farrell is fat, bald, and crazy.
Dale (Charlie Day) is a slightly dim dental assistant who just wants to get married and settle down, but is often sent into fits of screechy protestations by his boss, Julia (Jennifer Aniston) who hits on him with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer ringed with jingle bells. Naturally the other guys don’t think her obsession with sexing him up is something to complain about, but when Julia threatens to show photos of herself molesting his unconscious body to his fiancée, Dale is pushed over the edge.
And not the edge that means he jumped like a fat kid on a Smartie,
though that’s probably what most guys would do.
They could just quit, but the writers (Michael Markowitz, John Francis Daley, and Jonathan M. Goldstein) have made sure each one has an ironclad reason why they can’t, leaving them with murder as their only option for solving their problems.
So our industries are in recession and you’re a sex offender.
That’s enough justification for murder, don’t you think?
Of course, neither of them have any clue how to commit murder, so they end up enlisting the aid of a variety of hilarious support characters including Gregory, the voice of their car’s OnStar-type system, a “wetwork” expert played by Ioan Gruffedd, and a random black guy they meet at a seedy bar (Jamie Foxx) who calles himself Motherfu**er Jones and offers to be their “murder consultant.” All of them are just as funny as the main characters.
Jamie Foxx even manages to make drinking a drink look funny.
Though a lot of the jokes in the film are about sex, thankfully there aren’t any half-baked relationship subplots to clutter up the main plot of the film. Dale’s fiancée shows up all of twice and neither of the other two have girlfriends or even prospective girlfriends (though Kurt will screw anything that moves).
“She’s eating a banana AND a hot dog AND a popsicle??”
Given that much of the movie revolves around murder, it could easily have become a “dark” comedy, but because the guys are just soooo stupid that it never really gets that far. By the same token, their idiocy could have led to a lot of vicariously embarrassing scenes (which I hate) but there were only a few of those. So all in all I found it very funny. I even had to quote a line because I liked it so much. It comes from a scene where the police are after them because Kurt pranked his boss when they broke into his house and his DNA was found at the scene.
DALE: “Why would you put his whole bathroom in your ass!”
Comedy is notoriously hard to rate given how subjective it is, but I’d say that the funny factor and the raunch factor and the idiot factor are approximately on par with The Hangover. If you liked that film, you’ll probably like this one. Especially if you hate your boss. I liked it, so I recommend it to you.