Horrible Bosses (2011)

Director: Seth Gordon

Starring: Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston, Colin Farrell, Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx

What makes a “horrible boss” truly horrible? Is it their lack of compassion? Is it the way they seem to take joy from forcing employees to work extra hours/days? Do they find ways to harass us that somehow doesn’t step over the lines of what the company labels “decency”? Have they made us feel as though we have no exit strategy from our current soul-sucking job? If we’re really lucky, it’s all of the above and then some.

Nick Hendricks (Jason Bateman), Dale Arbus (Charlie Day) and Kurt Buckman (Jason Sudeikis) are three friends who have come to despise their bosses. Nick’s boss is about as evil as it gets. David Harken (Kevin Spacey) is President of Comnidyne Industries. He’s the type of boss who’ll trick you into drinking Scotch at 8:00 in the morning and then accuse you of being an alcoholic. David’s also the kind of guy who sets up an opening for a VP position, only to take it for himself because it means he’ll make more money. Outside of work, he’s also a jealous man with a short fuse. Married to a gorgeous blonde (Julie Bowen), he’s constantly searching for clues that will prove that she’s secretly cheating on him.

Dale’s situation would seem like every man’s dream to the untrained eye at first glance. He’s a dental assistant to the lovely Dr. Julia Harris (Jennifer Aniston). Julia has been trying for some time now to get Dale to have sex with her. Kurt, being the horndog that he is, would have done so within five minutes of meeting her, but Dale is happily engaged to be married, and doesn’t care for Julia’s harassment at all. He could just quit, but no one else will hire him because of a nighttime urination incident on an empty playground which got him registered as a sex offender.

Kurt actually likes his boss, Jack Pelitt (Donald Sutherland), until the old man suddenly dies of a heart attack. In his place, Jack’s cokehead son, Bobby was left in charge. Bobby only wants to drain the company dry of every last penny, caring nothing for its employees. Kurt, being the accountant, does not want to let this stand. Bobby has to go, Kurt decides. Although at first reluctantly, the others confess to feeling the same way about their horrible bosses. Seeking a man with experience in “wetwork,” they avoid one misunderstanding before coming across Dean ‘Motherfucker’ Jones (Jamie Foxx). His suggestion, that they each kill each others’ bosses to lessen the possibility of suspicion, sounds like something right out of either Alfred Hitchcock’s “Strangers on a Train” or the Billy Crystal/Danny DeVito comedy “Throw Momma from the Train,” both of which are in fact referenced in that very same scene.

For a premise like this one to work perfectly, you’ve got to have leads who can carry it to its natural conclusion. There’s nothing wrong with Bateman, Sudeikis or Day as individuals, but somehow they don’t quite gel as a unit. The majority of the film’s laughs come from the bosses, in particular Kevin Spacey and Jennifer Aniston. Without them, “Horrible Bosses” wouldn’t have a leg to stand on. Hard to know what to say about Spacey that hasn’t been covered already. He seems capable of nailing any role that is put in front of him. He even makes “Superman Returns” worth saying I saw it. Here, as the manipulative David Harken, he shows why even in a silly comedy he’s an Oscar-winning actor. Jennifer Aniston may not have Oscar gold (the closest she’s come to even being nominated was this year, for “Cake”), but what she does possess is an uncanny ability to make the audience hang on her every word. Generally, we’ve gotten used to seeing her as the girl-next-door type. Julia Harris is a big departure from that. The lengths she goes to keep Dale firmly in her grasp are deplorable, and yet there’s still something oddly likable about her. Siren that she is, Julia makes you question which action you would take if you were a guy in Dale’s position.

In the end, “Horrible Bosses” is a mixed bag. It features a great cast with a story that doesn’t get as much out of them as it should. Of course, because the movie did incredible numbers at the box office, it was granted a sequel in 2014. I haven’t seen it, and I’m not sure I really need or want to. We were barely able to sustain the same premise for 90 minutes the first go-round. Watch this one for Spacey, Farrell and Aniston, otherwise you’ll just be checking your watch until time to clock out and go home.

  1. Sylvia Williams says:

    Well written as always!!!!

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