Maybe I’m just paying attention more attention than is due to one of my favorite genres, but it seems like the Comedy has enjoyed a high profile (not to mention fantastic Box Office receipts) this summer. The star of the show has been Bridesmaids, the surprise hit that’s somehow become the highest grossing film under the Apatow banner; though recently the spotlight has been stolen by disappointments like The Hangover 2 and Bad Teacher. But with Horrible Bosses, it looks like the pendulum’s finally starting to swing back.
Horrible Bosses has a log line any honest person can connect to – it follows three young men (played by familiar comedic actors Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis) who plot to murder the Bosses that take make their lives living Hells.
That sounds pretty grim, and indeed the film is being touted as a black comedy. But while the premise certainly promises tragedy, the tone of the film never dips below a standard R-Rated sense of humor. There is death, but none of it feels particularly offensive, or even all that immoral. It never breaks from what you expect, and in that sense it’s more like its contemporaries in the genre than it wants to be.
But Horrible Bosses never becomes just another Studio comedy – it has a livelihood all to its own, and manages to avoid most of the pratfalls associated with its ilk.
Anymore, comedies about people getting in more and more trouble almost always get them there by forcing characters to do unconscionably stupid things (see Meet the Parents, Meet the Fockers and whatever the hell they called that third movie I didn’t see). Horrible Bosses fits in with that genre, and though I’m not saying this movie has the most sensical or realistic characters, they do manage to wind up in deep shit reasonably enough, at least so much so that it doesn’t become distractingly fabricated.
This is largely in thanks to the three bosses (played by A-listers Jennifer Aniston, Colin Farrell and Kevin Spacey) who do as much as they can to inspire the insanity in their employees. Spacey goes into full-on asshole-douchebag-cunt mode as Bateman’s character’s boss, and with each scene it becomes more and more impressive that Bateman doesn’t just clock the sucker right then and there. He steals every scene he’s in, though Aniston and (a hugely over-the-top and sadly-underused) Ferrell certainly don’t go unnoticed as a sexual harassment nightmare and balding cokehead, respectively.
The frustration they provide for the protagonists really makes this film move, and it puts the audience right in there with the cause. The Bosses don’t quite justify murderous rage, but they come close. Without them it’s arguable how well the film would work – Bateman and Sudeikis don’t bring a lot to the comedy, though Day definitely has his moments. This trio certainly find some laughs as they antic their way through the world of homicide, but not as many as the Aniston, Farrel and Spacey – nor as much as Jamie Foxx playing a what could only be described as a Murder Coach.
None of the comedy writing is especially strong, but Horrible Bosses highlights the importance of tension in comedy. On its own, the jokes work; but after the Bosses fill the film with hatred and rage, the laughes become bigger and this comedy goes from being so-so to one worth remembering in the aftermath of Bridesmaids.