Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Horrible Bosses Review

Horrible Bosses
Directed by Seth Gordon
Released in 2011

Michael Scott may be an ineffectual business negotiator, or even a social debacle, but he is a caring man at heart. He considers his employees family, in the way Papa Bear looks after his young. Not the same with these bosses. Made and set in a time when our country's economic outlook could be equated to a partisan, agonizing sinkhole, Horrible Bosses offers a dream scenario for those cubicle sheep out there sick of their employer but not willing to bite the hand that feeds. Three buds take aim at the source of their unyielding misery, and with hilarious results.  

Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day comprise the hapless trio. They, for different reasons, loathe their bosses so much they conceive an idea, while drunk of course, to kill them in order to return to happiness. Kevin Spacey slithers with a deadly bite as Dave Harken, the bane of Nick Hendrick's (Bateman) existence. He is brilliant, brilliant in his methods of manipulation that confound and humiliate his reluctant man-servant Nick. And evil as well, with a dark side that reveals itself verbally until physical introductions. Kurt Buckman (Sudeikis) leads a content work life, with his boss a loving father figure (a warm Donald Sutherland). That is, until the unexpected happens and his soulless tool of a son tacks his name on his daddy's desk. His depravity is not so self-aware, but part of his blood; he does not know how to not be offensive and shamelessly covetous. His addiction to cocaine only exacerbates such qualities. The last of the three differs, drastically. Dentist Dr. Julia Harris, an alluring Jennifer Aniston never acting or looking better, targets her assistant Dale (Day) as the object of her sexual desires. All would be fine if Dale was not engaged to be married to a loving fiancé. Dale's struggle is looked down upon by his friends, but Dale has the right moral center even as Julia yearns to corrupt it.

The three leads and their evil counterparts define the film in its unrelentingly comical, raunchy glory. But a number of other familiar faces appear for amusing moments. Modern Family's Julie Bowen is Harken's wife, polar opposite in affection and faith to her husband. Jamie Foxx surfaces multiple times as the hitman the three consult. His name itself is unfit for print and he makes for amusing racial commentary. Even Mr. Fantastic himself, suave British bloke Ioan Gruffudd, appears for a cameo that is as confusing as it is priceless. 

But it is the leads here that excel. Bateman is the best "straight man" in comedy around, and while that is the core of his role, he surpasses it in moments like while cleaning up the mess Charlie Day made. Day is the real standout of the film. In this scene in particular, the manic, fumbling style he shines with in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia has quite the literal stimulus, but all induced by Day's acting alone. He possesses a distinctive, shrill voice that makes for laughs even when he isn't delivering winning lines. The always-solid Jason Sudeikis has, much like the characters in the movie, for years filled small roles without much recognition. But with Hall Pass and now (and more notably) this film, he is gradually making his way to a leading man. His character usually is the overly confident, but strong-willed dude who gets into trouble but seeks for redemption. It is not an original role for him but he makes it work. 

Colin Farrell's tenure could have been more fleshed-out; this is after all the actor who mixed mirth and tragedy to brilliant effect with In Bruges. And his American accent is nowhere near as fun as his natural Irish quaver, really. He makes the clichéd cocaine-fueled businessman role not feel too stale, however. Spacey is the most convincingly evil of the bunch, but as a two-time Academy Award winner can likely achieve, he brings a little more to it. He is psychotic, a devotee to schadenfreude. He feeds on the pain of others, and, as he says, "it feels good". Aniston may be the surprise of the whole film. She has slummed it in so many romantic comedies we forget she is a winning comic item, not to mention a very sexy one as well. Her seductive thirst for men feels voluptuous but genuinely creepy, just what the script is aiming for to reach equality amongst the three. I cannot imagine anyone else filling this part, at least more effectively. 

Horrible Bosses does not seek to inspire or enlighten, and it really does not want to comment on the current state of employment other than repeat that, hey, bosses suck. The meditation on the inability of three middle-class men to carry through with such a heinous task is all too short; tears don't have to be shed but the psychological effects could have been addressed to greater, and campy, extent. Oh, and what a deus ex machina of an ending. But such qualms do not detract from the enjoyment, which, as box office numbers so far have shown, many have experienced. It moves at that "laugh a minute", and often greater, pace, not losing steam. And while directed without much style or distinction, there are some clever touches here and there, especially the well-timed overhead shot of the three leads awkwardly pulling out of a parking lot. The maladroit dexterity the characters hold on their own ludicrous premise is in the end why the film's premise prevails.

Final Verdict:
3 Stars out of 5

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