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5 reviews, 12 user ratings

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Horrible Bosses
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Like "9 to 5" With Fewer Benefits"
2 stars

“Horrible Bosses” is a film that comes to theaters bearing a potentially promising premise--not an especially original one, mind you, but a promising one--and that is indeed more than one can say about most comedies that have come around the bend in recent months. The problem is that once it establishes said potentially promising premise, it then proceeds to squander it through a combination of lackluster writing and haphazard direction until it feels less like a movie and more like a 90-minute version of its own coming attractions trailer. It is a bit of a shame because the film contains plenty of talented people and just enough amusing moments to keep you thinking that it will eventually pull itself out of the bag and transform into something truly inspired. Sadly, that never happens and the end result is a film as coarse, bluntly obvious and irritatingly self-conscious as its title, only nowhere near as funny.

The film tells the story of a trio of old friends whose lives are currently linked by their hideous work situations brought upon by--what else?--their horrible bosses. Straight-arrow Nick Hendricks (Jason Bateman) is a corporate suit whose progression up the ladder is constantly stymied by higher-up Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey), a borderline sadist who mistreats and works his underlings to the bone with the promise of nonexistent promotions and seems to take a special delight in making Nick’s life a living hell. Genial horndog Kurt Buckman (Jason Sudekis) seems to have a solid job working as an accountant for a chemical company for a friendly boss who is clearly grooming him for better things, all of which changes when the boss dies and the company is taking over by his son, Bobby Pellit (Colin Farrell), a loutish cokehead whose only interest in the company is to make as much money from it as possible to fund his Caligula-like lifestyle through such tricks as firing employees almost at random and making a shady deal involving hazardous waste disposal that could endanger thousands of people. Goofball Dale Arbus (Charlie Day) is an assistant dental hygienist whose upcoming marriage is about to be jeopardized by his boss, Julia (Jennifer Aniston), a sex-crazed loon who sexually harasses him at every turn and threatens to show compromising photos (taken while he was gassed during his own examination) unless he finally gives in and sleeps with her.

For various reasons, the three guy cannot simply leave their jobs and after a while, they (well, Kurt and Dale at least) come to the conclusion that the world in general and their lives in particular would be greatly improved if their were disposed of for good. With no practical knowledge of how to go about bumping people off, they venture into the bad part of town--you know, the area with all the black people--and make the acquaintance of a tough guy (Jamie Foxx) whose name cannot be printed here but which will probably be transformed into “Melon Farmer” when the film hits commercial television. (This is supposed to be a joke but the revelation of his real name is actually much funnier, but I digress.) Melon Farmer won’t actually kill the bosses himself but offers to serve as a “murder consultant: to advise the guys on how to go about it in a way that won’t get them caught. His idea, a variation on the one that drove both the Alfred Hitchcock classic “Strangers on a Train” and the Danny DeVito less-than-classic “Throw Momma from the Train” (both of which get a shout-out, although the even-more apt “9 to 5” gets nary a mention--possibly because the target audience for this film is barely old enough to remember Bridget Fonda, let alone Jane), is that the three kill each others bosses because without any plausible motive or obvious connection to their victims, they stand a better chance of getting away with their crimes. Inevitably, their best-laid homicidal plans go all to hell and while they manage to commit any number of crimes along the way, they keep screwing things up when it comes to the big stuff as the film descends into a string of car chases, blown break-ins and jokes about the possibility of our heroes getting raped in prison.

The basic joke driving “Horrible Bosses” is the sight of a group of guys who devise a seemingly clever and diabolical plan that will solve all their problems but lack the nerve, guts or brains to even make it through the preliminaries, let alone the nasty stuff. The problem is that the movie itself suffers from the same problem--it has been made by a group of guys who have devised a seemingly clever and diabolical black comedy but lacks the nerve, guts or brains to make it through the lead-up to the good stuff. It starts off amusingly enough and while some of the elements may strike viewers as a bit familiar, I was willing to give it a little bit of slack on the assumption that it was merely building up steam for the truly wild and subversive stuff that would hopefully follow. Alas, the screenplay never makes good on the promise of its premise and winds up getting bogged down in a morass of vulgar dialogue and sight gags, jokes that are borderline misogynistic, racist and homophobic and numerous shots people screaming at each other at the top of their lungs, all of it slapped together by director Seth Gordon (whose previous effort was the gruesomely ineffective comedy “Four Christmases”) so haphazardly and with such a total disregard for building any sort of comedic rhythm that it feels at times like a 90-minute-long version of its coming attractions trailer, lacking only the tension and suspense. Although I have no way of knowing if this is true or not, I suspect that there was once an earlier version of the screenplay which was much darker in tone and which didn’t bend over backwards to prevent its heroes from doing anything that test audiences might find objectionable. Once it got sold, however, it was gradually watered down in an attempt to make it more palatable to average viewers until what might have been a solid and memorably nasty comedy was diluted into a final product that almost makes the aforementioned “9 to 5” look daring and edgy by comparison.

One of the more annoying aspects of “Horrible Bosses” is that a reasonably game and talented cast was assembled but instead of allowing them to spark off of each other in hopefully amusing ways, most of them have instead chosen simply to give performances similar to those they have done in other, better projects. Bateman is the voice of reason surrounded by chaos as he was in the likes of “Arrested Development” and “Extract,” Sudekis’ wacky lecher is similar to the ones he played in such films as “The Bounty Hunter” and “Hall Pass” and Kevin Spacey has pretty much cornered the market for monstrous bosses with his roles in “Glengarry Glen Ross,” “Swimming with Sharks” and the like. All of them do as well as they can with the material that they have been given but like the film itself, they are unable to come up with any twists that might have made things a little more interesting. (Having never watched “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” before, I cannot say whether Charlie Day is doing a repeat of his character on that show here but I will say that his performance is so stridently annoying in every aspect that I hope to continue not seeing him again for the foreseeable future.) In contrast, the only performances that do stand out at all are the ones from the two performers who do get to somewhat break out of their respective shells. Sporting a gruesome comb-over and deploying a depraved party-hearty attitude that comes across as a sly spoof of his own tabloid past, Colin Farrell is very funny as the lewd and crude bane of Kurt’s existence and while the following may sound exceptionally strange coming from me, Jennifer Aniston is also quite good spoofing her image as America’s Dullest Sweetheart as Dale’s lewder and cruder boss. Sadly, the film doesn’t seem to have any idea of what to do with them and those characters pretty disappear from the proceedings during the second half altogether in order to concentrate on the increasingly unfunny escapades involving the guys and the now-homicidal Spacey that wind up going nowhere fast.

As I said before, I suspect that “Horrible Bosses” once began with a smarter and savvier screenplay and there are moments when bits and piece from that possible earlier incarnation pop through and wind up scoring big--there is a great moment when two of the bosses inadvertently meet and Jamie Foxx reveals his seemingly sordid criminal past in a monologue that affords Ethan Hawke the most laughs of his entire career and he isn’t even in the film itself. These moments, and there are a few others scattered throughout, wind up cutting both ways--they are funny as hell but they also serve as a reminder as to just how weak and nonsensical the rest of the material is. There have been worse comedies to come out this year--atrocities like “Just Go with It,” “Arthur” and “Bad Teacher” immediately come to mind--and I suppose that people who are in the mood for mindless crudity may find it an amiable enough time-waster (especially on cable, where I suspect it may play a little better during those late nights when there is nothing else on). However, considering its potential and the quality of the talent involved, those who are looking for something more than that are likely to come away disappointed. “Horrible Bosses” isn’t so much horrible as it is relentlessly mediocre and as this film proves, that can sometimes be even worse than merely horrible in the long run.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=20782&reviewer=389
originally posted: 07/07/11 22:48:03
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User Comments

9/21/17 morris campbell funny imho 4 stars
9/03/12 Courtney Funny the whole way through. 5 stars
11/07/11 mr.mike Spacey's great , movie is consistently funny. 4 stars
7/23/11 Charles Tatum Foul mouthed and very funny 4 stars
7/18/11 damalc Dale wouldn't fuck Dr. Harris? Zero credibility. 4 stars
7/16/11 Jeff Wilder Puerile and crude. But funny. 3 stars
7/13/11 savvysweep1 Very funny movie 4 stars
7/11/11 Sean Just another reason I don't listen to talentless critics!!! 3 stars
7/11/11 Matt C Douchebag critics need a sense of humor. 5 stars
7/09/11 Cane Toad You have to be a joyless asshole to hate Charlie Day. 3 stars
7/09/11 Ashley So funny!!!!!!!! Its so stupid,but i truly enjoyed it. 5 stars
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  08-Jul-2011 (R)
  DVD: 11-Oct-2011


  DVD: 11-Oct-2011

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