Review: Horrible Bosses (2011)

Director: Seth Gordon

***

When faced with the prospect of killing Mr. Burns, Homer Simpson asked, “Kill my boss? Do I dare live out the American Dream?” For Nick (Jason Bateman), Dale (Charlie Day) and Kurt (Jason Sudeikis), this is less of a dream and more of a necessity, as each one has a boss that is driving them mad. But how do they get rid of them? How can they get away with it? Why should we care?

It’s a good thing the guys take their time planning their bosses’ murders, because the bosses get more screentime that way. For all the everyman antics of the three central characters, it’s the bosses who steal the show in Horrible Bosses. Nick is denied a long-sought promotion by his tormentor Mr. Harken, played by Kevin Spacey. Spacey played one of the all-time evil bosses in Swimming In Sharks, so he’s well versed in snide putdowns and biting insults. Kurt actually starts off with a nice boss (Donald Sutherland), but he dies and his son (Colin Farrell, sporting a receding hairline) takes over. It’d be easier to hate this drug-addicted tool if Farrell wasn’t so funny and if Sudeikis’ Kurt wasn’t so unlikeable, especially compared to Bateman and Day’s characters. The latter gets the most colourful storyline, as his newly-engaged dental assistant Dale suffers continual sexual harassment from Dr. Julia (Jennifer Aniston). Aniston has an absolute blast playing up her sexuality to absurd proportions, whilst Day sits hilariously agog like a deer in the headlights.

With that storyline, one can’t help but wonder would that story have been used if the genders had been reversed, but then Horrible Bosses just isn’t that daring. Indeed, despite a game cast, Seth Gordon’s film generally plays it safe, rarely stepping out of the zone of having the leads be berated/insulted/groped by their bosses. There may not be much to shock, but there are plenty of giggles to be had. The bosses claim most of them as they put their employees/victims in embarrassing positions (in Dale’s case, literally) and stretch them to breaking point. Once they decide to off their bosses, the guys go on reconnaissance missions with help from murder ‘consultant’ Jones (Jamie Foxx in a fun little role). As the film goes on and the plan of action is put into motion, the ridiculousness of the whole situation stretches it beyond the point of farce. Whether or not you’ll stick with Horrible Bosses or not depends on your tolerance for base humour. If the sight of Aniston knowingly eating a banana and a hot dog doesn’t float your boat, look elsewhere. Horrible Bosses isn’t as edgy or as clever as it might think, but it does offer some big laughs and a little bit of fantasy indulgence. After all, we’ve all had bosses we’d rather not see again…

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