MOVIE REVIEW: Horrible Bosses


The comedic movie plot device of having regular average people resorting to criminal actions is classic and commonly-used.  It has that level of success because audiences are always intrigued to watch movie characters they relate to cross lines and do things they themselves wouldn't dare do.  Sometimes, the crimes fall into the category of broken rules and minor shenanigans, like director Todd Phillips's resume of Road Trip, Old School, and The Hangover.  Nobody's getting hurt but laws go out the window.  Stealing and theft take the hi-jinks to another level, as in classics like Raising ArizonaA Fish Called Wanda, or Bottle Rocket, among many others.  It's when the crimes reach the level of murder and death that things get really twisted and interesting.  Take John Waters's Serial Mom, the little-seen and underrated Very Bad ThingsThe Whole Nine Yards, Fargo, and nearly the entire library of the Coen Brothers to go with it.

Audiences relish the "woulda-coulda-shoulda" spark wondering if they too could pull off what they're seeing.  Watching crimes being committed and living vicariously in the shoes of the fictitious people involved feels like cashing in an imaginary "Get Out of Jail Free" card.  It beats actually acting out our deep wannabe criminal desires.  We've all thought about killing someone or wishing someone dead, but 99.9% of us never act on it.  That's what movies like Horrible Bosses are for.

As the title suggests, good friends Nick, Kurt, and Dale all hate their bosses.  For go-getter Nick (the inescapable Jason Bateman), his lecherous and deceiving boss, Harken (Kevin Spacey), just cheated him out of a promotion he was promised.  Ladies man Kurt (Saturday Night Live and Hall Pass star Jason Sudekis) loves his job until coke-head Bobby (Colin Farrell), the son of the company founder, takes over and starts making drastic cuts and changes.  Finally, the flighty dental assistant Dale (Charlie Day of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia) is constantly being blackmailed and sexually harassed by his smoking hot dentist boss, Dr. Julia (Jennifer Aniston).

After frequently comparing their terrible situations at the bar after work, they get the bright idea to have their bosses knocked off.  As usual, the tricky part is not getting caught and, as usual again, our three guys don't exactly have their I's dotted and their T's crossed.  The crooked ex-con (Jamie Foxx) they seek for "professional assistance" doesn't help.  

Horrible Bosses follows the trend of "2011: Summer of the R-Rated Comedy," meaning that their bumbling schemes and actions cross as many lines of censorship as they do laws.  While the premise, of course, has no merit and is intentionally unbelievable, the movie still triggers more eye rolls than big laughs.  The casting of the Horrible Bosses is brilliant and the best part of the movie.  All three bosses are perfectly cast and get under our skin with great laughs.  Few people shoot a better reptilian tongue than Kevin Spacey. It's a fun, dark turn for the normally cute and cuddly Jennifer Aniston, and Colin Farrell is a complete chameleon, trading his usual Irish smolder for gaudy fashion and a comb-over.  Even though the three guys are all well-played by Bateman, Sudekis, and Day, it's the villains that make this picture sing.

The big flaw with Horrible Bosses is the plot.  As aforementioned with this premise and genre, such plots are supposed to be unbelievable.  That goes without saying, but if you're trying to get all R-rated about it, the filmmakers should have gone all out.  Other than racial jokes, gay jokes, sexual dialogue, and the profanity that ties them together, Horrible Bosses lacks the memorable big shockers and big gags of other dark comedies.  You won't be walking out of the theater going to neighbor "Hey, did you see that?!" when you really should have.  They need a tiger in the bathroom or missing tooth or something.

LESSON #1: EVERYONE HAS A TOLERANCE LIMIT AT THEIR PLACE OF WORK-- We were taught in school to choose jobs we love or have a passion for, but we know that's not always true.  Why else is it called work?  All of us have varying levels of tolerance and acceptance for the things we don't like about our jobs, no matter the profession.  We let things we don't like go, because we value our job.  Yet, every person, even if he or she truly does love their job, has boundaries and limits to what they will do and not do for their job or the supervisor.

LESSON #2: KNOW WHO YOU'RE GETTING INTO BUSINESS WITH-- In Horrible Bosses this applies on two fronts.  First, each of our guys should have seen their bosses and the potential for miserableness coming.  Maybe don't take that job next time before suffering years of hate.  Second, do your research on who you hire.  Most top-notch assassin types aren't going to be found in the "Men Seeking Men" section of Craigslist for $200.

LESSON #3: PLAN AND THINK THINGS THROUGH BEFORE STARTING OR PARTICIPATING IN AN AMBITIOUS SCHEME OR CRIMINAL ENDEAVOR-- Don't act on impulse, wannabe criminals.  Do your homework (and more than that Craigslist stuff from Lesson #2).  Making a criminal choice as drastic as murder has far-reaching and unseen consequences.  Be sure you know what those are and whether or not you are prepared live with them later.  Most of all, give yourself outs and options.  Have contingency plans and a Plan B, C, or D.  Do less than that and you'll look like a kid trying to steal a candy bar from 7-11.