Film Review: Horrible Bosses

This nastily funny, ultimate wish-fulfilling black comedy should prove a hit with summer audiences, all too glad to be out of the office.

We’ve all had Horrible Bosses, be they tightly wound, chauvinistic, homophobic Type-A jerks, or snippy dragon women who haven’t been laid since the Reagan era. Here, Nick (Jason Bateman), Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) and Dale (Charlie Day) all have it particularly bad, being tortured by, respectively, a sadistically cruel Master of the Universe (Kevin Spacey), an overly entitled cokehead creep (Colin Farrell), and a female dentist (Jennifer Aniston) who blithely practices sexual abuse in the workplace. The three subordinates eventually come to the decision that these oppressors must die, and their wacky attempts to achieve their goal provide the wish-fulfilling, comic fuel for the film.

Director Seth Gordon, with the help of a terrifically game cast and an agreeably acrid script, has fashioned a satisfying, nasty and funny summer entertainment. He achieves just the right comic tone here—especially delineating the early attempts at finding a good boss-killer, which include encounters with a golden-shower specialist and Jamie Foxx as an amusingly monickered advisor—something at which the flailing, determinedly un-p.c. Bad Teacher failed so miserably. The film is not perfect, and definitely has its lulls and lapses, but its snarky smarts and all-out simple wish to entertain ride right over its weaknesses. The three protagonists are just sympathetic enough, while their bosses are indeed just that horrible to keep you absorbed in the outlandish developments. It’s basically Nine to Five all over again, the male version with major balls, but for all its outrageousness, more rooted in a less glossy reality than its precursor that gets deeper laughs.

Bateman brings the beset Everyman quality of his choice “Arrested Development” character to Nick, and it works beautifully. Sudeikis looks primed for a big film career in this role that’s like the kind of thing that shot Vince Vaughn to stardom, and he has an easy, jovial screen command as the trio’s stud muffin. Day is the token doofus and quite the appealing innocent, even with his victimization by his foxy dentist boss, something his friends cannot fathom as being any kind of a problem.

As that demented driller, Aniston is the real cast standout, seemingly having the naughty time of her life subverting her wholesome America’s sweetheart/wronged tabloid wife image. There seems to be a definite comic trend now of women talking as lowdown-dirty as men (in male-scripted movies), and Aniston, delivering salacious lines with her devastatingly quick TV-honed timing, almost makes them seem the height of wit. Just to hear her say “I’m a squirter” is almost worth the admission price.

Spacey reliably does the monstrously superior jerk routine which has been his specialty since Swimming with Sharks, but Farrell (unrecognizable with a hideous comb-over) is given too short shrift by the screenwriters and mainly does manic, monotonously.