Nick, Dale and Kurt are all stuck in awful jobs under the cosh of their horrible bosses. Nick’s boss at his financial firm is a psycho. Dale’s boss at his dental practice is a nymphomaniac. Kurt’s boss at an industrial company is nice, but then he dies, leaving his son to take over, who happens to be a cocaine addicted tool. Together, they joke about killing their bosses and being free of them, but it’s not long before the jokes turn to serious discussion. Hiring convicted criminal Motherfucker Jones as their ‘murder consultant’, they stake out their bosses and try to find a way of killing them and getting away with it...
Not a month ago, Bridesmaids was released, and oh how the nation laughed. A group of ladies came along and surprised everyone by actually being funny, making for a rom com which was genderless, which in my eyes was a first. Now, we have Horrible Bosses, which I’d argue is the male equivalent to Bridesmaids. We have the vast ensemble cast, the recognisable faces, an SNL star in one of the lead roles, the buddy element and the premise which carries plenty of potential for comedy. So can it match up to the highest grossing female-led R-rated movie of all time? No. But it is still funny.
This is mainly down to its cast. We’ll start with the three would-be killers. Jason Bateman plays Nick, the downtrodden financial worker who willingly takes shit in the hopes of one day gaining a promotion. I think everybody loves Jason Bateman, even after the number of decidedly dodgy comedy films he’s been a part of in the last few years. His part in Arrested Development cleanses all sins and will do so forever. Here, though, he’s given a really solid role as the pseudo leader of the three whilst still getting the famous Bateman lines he’s always given which he can deliver with his signature sarcastic/unbelieving tone. Jason Sudekis, the SNL feature player, plays Kurt in his second comedic lead role of 2011, but we’ll forget about Hall Pass. Here, he plays a ladies man who actually likes his job but not his new boss. Put it this way, he’s a dick but a likeable dick, which shows how well written his part is. However, the breakout here will be Charlie Day, playing Dale, a naive young idiot who’s on the sex offenders register after an unfortunate accident (it’s funny, not dark, trust me) and can only find work with a nympho dentist. He’s been playing this role for years on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (which if you haven’t seen, you should) and he carries it over and becomes the loveable loser of the piece and puts in yet another solid performance here. These three characters have been perfectly cast and really well written.
Now, the three bosses. Nick’s boss is Dave, played by Kevin Spacey. Spacey does brilliantly well in playing the rich, self-obsessed corporate psychopath and really compliments Bateman well. Kurt’s boss is Bobby, played by Colin Farrell. To me, this is probably the only underwritten character in the film and it’s disappointing. The joke is he’s a cocaine addict playboy, and that he’s bald with a comb over. The character doesn’t really progress further than that and ends up really 2-dimensional and flat. Then, there’s Dale’s boss, played by Jennifer Aniston. She is so unbelievably ‘un-Aniston’ in this film, if that makes any sense at all. She plays the highly sexual Dr Julia, who also happens to be quite psychotic herself. She has good chemistry with Charlie Day and it’s because she steps outside her comfort zone that she’s able to give one of her best performances in a long time. That whole story thread with Dale and Julia is probably the funniest of the three and that lies at the feet of Aniston and Day. Kudos, also, to Jamie Foxx as Motherfucker Jones (the story behind his name change is probably the cleverest, funniest joke in the film) for doing well enough with what he’s given.
Let’s be honest, this is a pretty dark premise for a film. Lots of murder involved, lots of plotting and y planning and scheming and misery. But, the ridiculousness of the premise, for a comedy film, sparks various situations in which there are some real laughs. Maybe not laugh out loud belly laughs, but still it’s humorous. It definitely surpasses the ‘Kermode Five Laugh Rule’ test with ease and just keeps going from there. Admittedly, quite a few of the jokes in the film which are misogynistic, but they fit within the ethos of the film. There are also some racist jokes in there, but again, they fit and they’re appropriate to the tone of the film. Another small gripe I have with the film is that the funniest story of the three, the Dale and Julia thread, isn’t given as much attention as the other two threads and doesn’t really play into the main dramatic story of the film. That seems like a silly statement, but you’ll understand once you see it yourself. I think they’ve missed a trick not placing that thread as the central one, but it’s understandable why they did it and everything works how they’ve done it so who am I to judge? And then there’s the ending. It just seems to happen, leading to somewhat of an anti-climax.
Overall, it’s a funny comedy with plenty of silliness in it, and I think it’s probably in the top 3 comedies of 2011 so far, behind Bridesmaids and jostling for second with Paul. Unfortunately, Bridesmaids casts a big shadow over this, and it falls short of meeting its high standard. This won’t appeal to everyone, I definitely see this as more of a guy’s comedy, girls will be far less likely to find this funny due to the content of the jokes and level of humour, but it’s worth giving it a go nonetheless. It never gets too dark, and the story never loses focus of what it has to achieve both joke wise and sense wise. This isn’t a classic, but it’s one of the funnier comedies of the year so far. Admittedly, that’s not saying much, it’s like saying having a cold is better than having a flesh-eating virus.