What we have with Horrible Bosses is a film of 2 halves, 3 friends, 4 big stars and a scatter gun approach to comedy that will have you laughing and cringing in equal measure. At 98 minutes it’s also a lot shorter than one may expect but I feel compelled to advise you to leave 10 or so minutes beforehand to climb your nearest ladder, tree or preferably skyscraper in order to find a high enough vantage point from which to suspend your disbelief. Get ready for some of the most unintelligent decision making since Zack Snyder cast Ron Jeremy as Dr Manhattan. Oh wait that didn’t happen…
As you may have guessed by now from the advertising campaign (that has seemingly found its way on to every bus in the country), Horrible Bosses is about 3 guys who hate their 3 bosses enough to team up and plot to kill them. Why do they want to kill them? Well Kevin Spacey’s Dave Harken has strung along Jason Bateman long enough, promising him promotions that he never delivers and trapping him within a job he doesn’t want. Colin Farrell’s Bobby Pellitt is just horrible to everything and everyone and sees no problem in firing all of his fat employees and killing thousands of Bolivian’s in order for his late-father’s chemical company to save a bit of money. Finally Jennifer Aniston’s Dr Julia Harris really, really, really wants to have sex with her engaged-to-be-wed assistant. Whether these offences constitute murder is another matter (to which most disappointingly for a film in which you are supposed to be rooting for the ‘good guys’ the answer is no), but murder is the plot that they gave me so if it’s going to be any good the impressive cast has got to step up to the plate.
Well to kick off, out of all of the not so horrible bosses Farrell is the standout here, building on the comic potential he showed in the black comedy masterpiece In Bruges (I warn you that any comments to the contrary will be met with the fervoured consternation of a man obsessed). Bald, fat, obnoxious and the funniest thing on show, he is woefully underused.
Jennifer Aniston on the other hand spends the whole film straining to hammer home the ‘I’m playing against type’ message in the most amorously direct manner possible. The threat that at any moment she will finally just give up the pretence and sexually assault the camera, probably with some sort of specialist dental equipment and fuelled by years of basking in the temperate indifference of critical opinion, is one that looms large in every scene that she’s in. The part of Julia is one just begging for a grandstanding performance of horrid ferocity and she’s ok, but nothing more than that.
On the dependable side Kevin Spacey is as tediously excellent as usual but his character arc is one that falls quickly into ridiculousness, much to the films expense. Aside from the bosses Jason Bateman completely dominates the ‘Stupid Employees’ delivering some solidly understated comedy whilst the other two (Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day) make no real comedic impact whatsoever.
The other big name here Jamie Foxx is given hardly any screen time, phoning in his role with consummate ease, although he does get one of the funniest name origin stories I’ve heard in a while (and I’ve heard some name origin stories let me tell you). One thing he did take a special interest in (being the modern progressive liberal that he is) was indeed his characters name. After he read the script Foxx saw the given name ****sucker Jones as ‘over the line’ preferring the moniker Mother****** Jones instead. Turns out he prefers insinuated incest to insinuated homosexuality. Mothers before brothers it is then.
The script itself is a little lacklustre, squandering its promising premise with some loose plotting. It’s also the sort of film where every race knows its stereotypical place, but such potentially offensive material never jars in the way it does in things like The Hangover. Horrible Bosses has a breezily knock-about demeanour that somewhat blows away its moral quandaries and ridiculous implausibilities in a gust of mainstream callousness. Don’t get me wrong, a bit of mainstream callousness is fine by me but when the premise is as good as the first 20 minutes would indicate and extremely ripe for a bit of the old satire then it’s a shame to see it go to waste.
Horrible Bosses does have some laughs and some excellent comic moments. However many jokes do fall alarmingly flat with the big sweary letters that cover the screen when each new boss is introduced bombing especially hard. But overall in spite of all of its flaws and potentially catastrophic plot machinations it was funny and I enjoyed it and from a piece of mainstream comedic fluff (however disappointing a waste it may be) you can’t say fairer than that.