DIRECTOR: Seth Gordon.
CAST: Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston, Colin Farrell, Jamie Foxx, Donald Sutherland, Lindsay Sloane, Julie Bowen, P.J. Byrne, Celia Finkelstein, Ioan Gruffudd.
SYNOPSIS: Nick (Bateman) hates his boss for making him work sunrise to sunset with no reward. Kurt (Sudeikis) hates his boss for being a coked-out idiot who has no interest in the company aside from the financial reward. Dale (Day) hates his boss for being a borderline rapist when he’s about to get married. A drunken conversation between the three of them leads to the hiring of a hit man (Foxx) to ensure an easy working environment. But things are never that straightforward.
Horrible Bosses is undoubtedly a massive step forward for director Seth Gordon, with his previous work on American TV shows The Office, Modern Family and Parks and Recreation showcasing his effortless capability of working with the current Hollywood darlings usually favoured by a certain Judd Apatow. Although the first half of the film may feel like a rehearsal to the better-paced and more enjoyable second half, this film is far from predictable with a wonderfully natural chemistry between the three male leads.
There’s no two ways about it; Horrible Bosses would not have worked without the cast in hand. Bateman, Day and Sudeikis form a believable allegiance amongst unbelievable events and bring the laughs in left right and centre, but personally I believe the star of the show is Mr Charlie Day. A wonderful amalgamation of Seth Green, Jonah Hill and Michael Cera, Day’s Dale really is the standout and a brilliant contrast to Bateman and Sudeikis’ more natural characters. Tiny and erratic, Dale is a genuine liability, but exceptionally fun to be around. The outtakes during the credits show off what a brilliant improviser he is and I very much look forward to more mainstream projects from him.
We’re all aware by now that Jason Bateman has perfected his realistic-everyman-stuck-in-crazy-circumstances character mainly due to his time on the fantastic Arrested Development, but it’s still great to see him completely on form here, never taking his eye off the ball and somehow managing to get the audience to be sympathetic with a character who wants to commit murder. He is (luckily) a great match for Kevin Spacey, bringing out a side to the thesp that I think audiences will want to see a lot more of and he’s far more exciting to watch than Jason Sudeikis’ Kurt who feels the least naturally funny of the bunch. Having to work a little harder to get the laughs, I don’t particularly think this is Sudeikis’ fault as much as it is down to the experience Bateman has and the fireball quality that Day possesses. However, watch out for a scene involving Kurt and some bathroom items. It’s wonderfully sadistic.
The bosses in question all play against type, with a heavily tattooed Jamie Foxx chosen as their assassin. Foxx is delightfully cruel, teasing his contractors and turning them from snivelling wimps into harder men – sort of. But it is those he has been hired to kill who are the best surprise, as when thinking of Colin Farrell you don’t generally think of a greasy, potbellied work-shy drug addict who sports a combover. And it’s hard to shake the squeaky-clean girl next door image of Jennifer Aniston she has become synonymous with due to the incredible success of Friends. But take that picture of Farrell and forget everything you know about Aniston’s Rachel, and you’ve got a very beneficial bit of casting here. The payoff is so good because you’re expecting Aniston to be terrible or the same as she is in everything else. But she’s really not. She’s very good, very dirty and is more than able to make you hate her due to Dr. Julia Harris’ (D.D.S.) inappropriate and grating behaviour.
Farrell is an absolute joy, the only downside being that his Bobby Pellitt does not have enough screen time, a negative he shares with fellow boss Kevin Spacey. We’ve seen Spacey play evil before, we know he relishes in it, but there’s still something so satisfying in seeing him make other people’s lives a living hell. Pitch perfect as always, it’s a shame there wasn’t more of him to indulge in. But back to Farrell. He has some great little set pieces and the laughs come thick and fast, especially when entertaining lap dancers and snorting cocaine off girls in his office and it’s nice to feel safe with his accent after some previous atrocities, nailing his American drawl. Genuinely refreshing to see such an alleged pretty boy so willing to make himself grotesque, Farrell needs to do more comedy.
Far from grotesque, Jennifer Aniston looks incredible at 42, showcasing her body at every possible opportunity and becoming the Queen of Profanity. Where other characters bring laughs by nearly overstepping the line, Aniston’s character suffers from sometimes going a little too far and making the viewing slightly uncomfortable. But this is in no part her fault and she can come away from this in the knowledge that, although she will always be Rachel Green, she has been able to prove her ability to shake the good girl image – and be more enjoyable to watch than Sudeikis.
Although it may verge on uncomfortable viewing at times, director Seth Gordon never lets the film veer so far off track that he can’t rein it back and the majority of it never truly crosses the line. Jokes that are revisited get the biggest laughs and there are no vomit or bodily fluid gags to slow the pace, with a massive strength being that the audience can connect to and understand why the tormented trio want to commit murder.
The Hangover set the bar for the buddy comedy genre and due to this parts of the film do appear to mimic its superior. More could have been made of the bosses, with the best talent not utilised as much as I would have liked, but, for its title, Horrible Bosses is ultimately about Bateman, Day and Sudeikis and their quest for a peaceful existence. Bateman and co. turn in some brilliant performances and the idea may be a rather novel one, but Horrible Bosses unfortunately lacks a certain edge, preventing it entry into territory marked by Anchorman and Office Space – the best of the workplace comedies.