HORRIBLE BOSSES (2011) / Comedy

Running Length: 98 minutes
MPAA Classification: R for crude and sexual content, pervasive language and some drug material.

Cast: Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, Charlie Day, Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston, Jamie Foxx, Colin Ferrell, Lindsay Sloane, Donald Sutherland
Director: Seth Gordon
Producers: Brett Ratner, Jay Stern
Screenplay: Michael Markowitz, John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein

Work sucks, especially when you have bosses like the characters in Horrible Bosses do. These are some of the most wretched, most foul, most unforgiving people ever to be encountered by mankind, and to give them control of a company is like handing the other employees a death sentence. Prepare for the rest of your days at this building to be a living hell.

The story focuses on Nick (Bateman, Hancock), Dale (Day, TV’s “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”), and Kurt (Sudeikis from “SNL”), three buddies whose day jobs are getting the better of them. Nick is a borderline workaholic who has high hopes that his hard work will result in a promotion that his manipulative boss Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey, American Beauty) never plans on giving him. Dale’s boss, Dr. Julia Harris (a brunette Jennifer Aniston), frequently subjects him to sexual harassment. Kurt has the best job of all until his beloved boss (Donald Sutherland) dies and he’s stuck with his insensitive and drug-addicted son, Bobby (Colin Farrell). So, upon the realization that their lives will only continue to get worse if they allow themselves to be treated this way, the three plot to finally get rid of the bosses once and for all, and it doesn’t go exactly as planned.

Sure, there are moments in Horrible Bosses where I felt dirty for laughing. The humor is coarse and the jokes are vulgar, but compared to the other raunchy comedies of yesteryear, it’s relatively tame. There are no lines that are crosses, no bounds that are overstepped. The material here is suitable for a modern audience, and that’s refreshing for a comedy in this day and age. Previous efforts like The Hangover Part II or The Change-Up tested the limits of offensiveness and ended up being less funny. On the other hand, Horrible Bosses is not nearly as crude or graphic and had me laughing from start to finish.

The acting is one of the brightest aspects. Jason Bateman employs his usual deadpan comedic style and works well alongside Charlie day, who remains energetic and frenetic throughout most of the movie. Jason Sudeikis delivers a calm and well-modulated performance and adds balance to the trio. Plus, his comedic timing is impeccable. The writers (Michael Markowitz, John Francis Daley, and Jonathan Goldstein) equip their script with a fair amount of one-liners that come in handy when the boys go out on their various reconnaissance missions, even though a lot of it seems improvised.

Like his character in Swimming with Sharks, Spacey is rude, sarcastic, and a real wise-ass. An actor of his age and status is perfect for this role. He incorporates years and years of playing the bad guy into one very memorable performance and frankly, it’s one of his funniest. As for Aniston, the success of her performance comes from the fact that the character she’s playing is so atypical for her. It’s shocking to hear her say some of the things that she says, but it’s never not funny. Colin Farrell rounds out as the last of the bosses and while he doesn’t have much screen time, he’s just as evil and crude as Spacey. My only problem is that he was underused.

PG-13 comedies are being churned out less and less these days. (In fact, I can’t remember the last time that I heard of one coming out in theaters.) So much more room is given with the R rating. The kind of humor changes and darker things are allowed to be said and done, and Horrible Bosses doesn’t exactly exploit its rating, it certainly takes full advantage of it. It’s by far one of the funniest comedies of last year.

Final rating: ★★★ (out of ★★★★)

© 2012 Stephen Earnest

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