Michael Markowitz, John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein
Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston, Colin Farrell, Donald Sutherland, Jamie Foxx
R for crude and sexual content, pervasive language and some drug material.
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I spent much of 2011 avoiding all things comedy. I wasn’t impressed enough with The Hangover to watch its sequel and I’ve always found the hokum of romantic comedies too tedious (and after (500) Days of Summer, what film could easily measure up?). Usually my filmgoing is in tandem with a group of friends and even they hadn’t been too excited about what the year had to offer. However, after Bridesmaids, we decided to give another discount movie house try out to buddy comedy Horrible Bosses and to my surprise, I quite enjoyed it.
The story surrounds three educated men (Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis) with strong work habits who must suffer through egomaniacal, hostile or sexually aggressive bosses. When they decide one evening over drinks that they should kill their bosses. I know I’ve never had that specific conversation with my friends, so it takes a bit of a leap of faith to believe such a topic would even come up. Then again, I’ve never had a boss as awful as theirs.
Chewing the best scenery around, Kevin Spacey, Colin Carrell and Jennifer Aniston add some flavor to an overused plot device as the three bosses who need to die to satisfy their employees. Spacey is an egocentric boss who works Bateman’s Nick Hendricks hard, convincing him to arrive early every morning, stay late every evening and even miss his own grandmother’s funeral.
Farrell is a balding, coke-snorting mysogonist who takes over his father’s (Donald Sutherland) business when he unexpectedly dies leaving Sudeikis’ Kurt Buckman trapped under a socially maladjusted drug addict.
Giving many audience members a fanatsy come true, Aniston plays a sexy dentist who sexually harrasses Day’s Dal Arbus, a recently engaged and utterly faithful dental assistant, trapped in his job thanks to an innocent playground bathroom break that led to his registration as a sex offender. Even his compatriots chide him on being upset with Dr. Harris’ advances, but when she resorts to blackmail to coerce him into an affair with her, his gloves come off.
There are no doubt bosses like this in the world, Spacey’s Dave Harken the most likely among them, but they are taken to such extremes in Horrible Bosses, that the stretch of credibility gives the film a dose of comic value you expect, but still enjoy.
Aside from Aniston, Farrell and Spacey, the three principles do an earnest job creating friendly, relateable characters who might just be the kinds of friends you could plot a murder job with. Bateman is a gifted actor and doesn’t have the material to stretch, but his is the straight-man performance that hold the group together. Bending credibility almost to the breakign point, The Office’s Sudeikis plays a womanizing stud who doesn’t look like he could get the girls, but does anyway. Yet it’s the manic Day (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) who livens most of the film with his broad, though charming performance as the short, put upon loner of the film. He’s not as outlandishly stupid as his character might have been in a film like The Hangover, making it a nice diversion from the antics of his chums.
Director Seth Gordon had a promising start with his documentary King of Kong, which earned a handful of critic prizes, but after his debut fiction feature Four Christmases, his career took a turn for television. There, he crafted several episodes for popular series, but his return to the big screen is certainly welcome. There isn’t a stylist’s touch in evidence in Horrible Bosses, but Gordon’s ability to frame Michael Markowitz, John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein’s screenplay with a deft hand and ample comic timing keeps the audience entertained for the film’s duration.
They say that drama is easy and comedy is hard and it all comes down to the timing, pace and content. The screenplay relies heavily on colorful language and extreme situations, but it never goes so far as to feel unrealistic. Rooting its humor in honest situations with personable characters prevents the film from getting so outlandish that it becomes its own self-parody. The makers of The Hangover need to take some lessons from Godron’s gem. Keep it light, keep it real, but most of all, keep it funny.
October 18, 2011