Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Horrible Bosses (***)
Directed by Seth Gordon
Horrible Bosses totally works because it accepts how absolutely preposterous it is. Everything in this film happens in a way that's convenient to the characters and the story arc. In a way, that's part of the screenplay's charm. To say that this film doesn't take itself seriously is a gross understatement. It takes all thoughts of an efficient, more functioning structure and totally chucks it out the window. Why would it do that? Well, it just makes for a funnier movie.
The film circles around three close friends: Nick (Jason Bateman), Dale (Charlie Day), and Kurt (Jason Sudeikis). All three men are plagued with hellish workplaces because of their horrible bosses. Nick is a subservient suit at a major sales corporation under the manic control of the megalomaniacal Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey). Nick has worked under the scrutinizing and manipulating thumb of Dave for close to eight years, but all will be well when Nick gets his much expected promotion to VP of Sales (a job equipped with its own office). But when Dave ends up absorbing the promotion himself, Nick thinks that he has finally crossed the line.
Dale, on the other end, has a much more different problem with his boss, Dr. Julia Harris, D.D.S. (Jennifer Aniston). As her dental assistant, Dale is forced to endure many suggestive advances from the sexual Julia, which would be fine if Dale weren't engaged to a woman whom he loves very, very much. Lastly, Kurt loves his boss boss Jack Pellit (Donald Sutherland) like a father, but when he dies of a sudden heart attack, the chemical company he works at is left to Jack's bloated, incompetent and cocaine-addicted son, Bobby (Colin Farrell). In his first day on the job, Bobby asks Kurt to fire people because they are fat or handicapped and then informs him that he only plans to suck the company of all its profits so he can fund his own drug habit.
When both Dale and Nick are blackmailed by their respective bosses so that they're trapped at their jobs, Kurt jokingly proposes an idea. All three of their lives would be so much better if they didn't have their bosses around, so why not have them murdered? None of them seriously consider it, but as time goes by and the idea continues to creep in their mind (and their bosses become increasingly evil) they decide that they are really going to go through with it. First, they get in contact with a murdering consultant, tellingly named Motherfucker Jones (Jamie Foxx) and then they go off and try to do the dirty deed which sets off a series of preposterous and ludicrous events which (as I've said before) only work because of the film's level of whimsy.
In the end, the reason that Horrible Bosses is so funny is because of how inept Nick, Dale, and Kurt are at all aspects of murder. The film's less interesting moments come in the first thirty minutes, where we're supposed to believe things like the impish Dale being able to resist the powerful seduction techniques of Julia (and might I add, Aniston, who sports an unbefore seen dark hairdo, may never have looked as stunning on the screen as she does here) or that anyone would be able to work under the psychopathic, dictator-like conditions that Dave Harken institutes. It is once the prospective murders begin that the film's best moments arrive and they come equipped with some of the best laughs you'll have in a movie this year.
This is a film that is totally created by its cast and it served itself well by casting stars that were willing to buy into the film's loopy concept. As the three bosses, Aniston, Spacey and Farrell really lay on the camp (though I was left wondering how much of Farrell's work was on the editing room floor since he has an approximate ten minutes of screentime) and take their three characters to the highest levels of hyperbole. Spacey, as unleashed as we've seen in a while, seems to relish his chance to play a man as evil and temperamental as Harken and does so with a quirky flair that adds an extra level of deviousness. Aniston totally undoes her America's Sweetheart image in this role as the ultra sexy dentist with the extra large libido. Half the fun in her performance is hearing those words come out of her mouth (kind of like Tom Cruise in Tropic Thunder), but she still delivers the racy dialogue with razor sharp wit.
As the three murderous employees, Bateman, Day, and Sudeikis wonderfully adapt their everyman images to play these three buffoonish men. Bateman brings his usual stock of charm and terrific timing. Day and Sudeikis, known mostly for their television work (Day in the cult comedy show It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Sudeikis on Saturday Night Live, as well as a brief but brilliant run on 30 Rock) deliver wonderfully funny performances in their first major film roles. The three's chemistry together generate some of the film's biggest laughs, especially when they're forced to match wits with Foxx who, as Motherfucker Jones, has one of his best comedic roles in close to a decade (it's almost hard to remember that he began as a comedian).
I won't pretend to hide the fact that I was openly rooting for this film to be fantastic. Day and Sudeikis have been two of my favorite television actors of the last few years, and who doesn't already like actors like Bateman, Aniston, or Jamie Foxx? The film takes an interesting dynamic of taking three performers (Bateman, Day, and Sudeikis) and putting them in roles that are very familiar for them, while taking three larger film stars (Spacey, Aniston, and Farrell) and placing them in awkward, against-type, supporting roles. The result is a film that always feels unbalanced and untidy, yet also always feels funny and fresh.