Don’t you wish you could kill your boss? Wouldn’t it be cool if you’re two best friends felt the same way and you all decided to go into it together? That’s the basic premise of Horrible Bosses, a foul-mouthed raunchy comedy that is neither as dark or as funny as it needs to be.
It isn’t that the movie is bad, I’ll admit to laughing at some of the ridiculous antics displayed on-screen. Not big laughs, but laughs none the less. The problem is it just isn’t that memorable.
One of the cardinal rules to screenwriting is to never mention or evoke memories of better movies, thereby reminding the audience of films they would rather be watching. A clever homage, maybe, but it can backfire at least as often as it succeeds. Namedropping movies the audience would rather be watching, yeah, that’s not such a great idea.
This is a lesson those making Horrible Bosses really, really should have taken to heart. Taking the basic premise of Strangers on a Train and Throw Momma From the Train (both mentioned during the movie) Horrible Bosses ups the ante by adding a third protagonist to the film because… The Hangover had three guys getting into trouble and it was funny, right?
And that’s all we’re really getting here, a lukewarm version of The Hangover centered around three friends (none of whom are as interesting or funny as the actors portraying them) in a situation quickly spiraling out of control. And for a script that struggles mightily with caricatures over actual characters, giving us six main characters probably wasn’t the wisest move.
Nick (Jason Bateman in the exact same role he’s played for more than a decade) is up for a promotion, but his insanely evil boss (Kevin Spacey on rabies, and possibly possessed by the spirit of Satan) takes the opportunity away at the last moment only to spite him. This charmer also has a violent temper and is insanely jealous about his wife (Julie Bowen) who’s obviously far too good for him.
Dale (Charlie Day) is engaged to a lovely girl (Lindsay Sloane), but that’s not stopping his nymphomaniac boss (Jennifer Aniston) from coming onto him every three seconds and blackmailing him into sleeping with her. Her idea of a good time is to molest her comatose patients and suggestively eat phalic foods while undressing in front of an open window for whoever might wander by.
Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) is a horndog with the perfect job until his boss (Donald Sutherland) dies suddenly and leaves the company to his complete fuck-up of a son (Colin Farrell) who wastes all the company’s money on cocaine and hookers and somehow, in a film with the two bosses mentioned above and three friends who idly decide to murder them all in cold blood, is still arguably the worst human being in the film.
With the help of a murder consultant (Jamie Foxx) the three pals begin to plot the death of their respective bosses only to discover that they might not have what it takes as their plans go horribly, and occasionally humorously, wrong.
For a dark comedy centered around multiple murders the script by Michael Markowitz, John Francis Daley, and Jonathan M. Goldstein is remarkably tame. (It really took three of you to write this?) Oh, there’s plenty of language and R-rated humor to be sure, but for a film that seems to be resting all of its laurels on shock value there’s very little that’s actually shocking.
Where the film makes its biggest mistake is overestimating the level of absurdity needed for the evil bosses themselves. To call them cartoonish is an insult to the animated profession. I’ve seen more realistic characters in a Road Runner cartoon. One might argue that this is done to help the audience root for the death of these characters and allow the payoff for each death to be that much crazier, *mild spoiler alert* but the death of three well-known stars at the hands of three less-known stars isn’t on the menu.*spoiler ends*
Horrible Bosses could have taken the dark comedic route and actually examined the weight of such an undertaking or the stains which come with it, or gone on a complete batshit crazy American Psycho-style murder spree, but that would get in the way of Sedakis shoving everything in his boss’s apartment up his ass. And that’s actually one of the film’s best scenes.
In terms of dark comedies about murdering your boss (admit it, it’s kinda cool there’s a sub-genre like that, right?) Horrible Bosses is no 9 to 5. It’s not even the best wacky threesome buddy film of this summer.
A trip to the theater to see Horrible Bosses isn’t a complete waste of time. You’ll certainly have some laughs, but if you’re paying full-price there’s a good chance you’ll also feel more than a little letdown and taken advantage of. I know I was, and I saw the movie for free.