DVD Review of Horrible Bosses: Despite being a comedy about three friends who conspire to kill their managers, it’s not as dark as it could have been, and unfortunately more crude than it had to be. But its stars are perfectly cast, which not only makes it a worthwhile ride, but also compensates for some of the lamer attempts at humor.
It’s rare to come across someone who’s never worked for a jerk. In that sense, Horrible Bosses has somewhat of a built-in audience: people who wouldn’t actually go so far as to murder their superiors, but wouldn’t necessarily mind watching fictional movie characters try to do it. In a funny way with a lotta laughs, of course.
And to be sure, the bosses in Horrible Bosses are nothing less than despicable, so much so that you’ll likely be rooting for the three main characters (Jason’s Bateman’s Nick, Charlie Day’s Dale, and Jason Sudeikis’ Kurt) to complete their mission. Nick is incessantly taunted by Kevin Spacey, who—despite all of his carrot-dangling—never had any intention of giving Nick a big promotion, and also isn’t above insulting his dead grandmother. Dale the dental assistant is being sexually harassed and blackmailed by Jennifer Aniston, and Kurt is newly reporting to Colin Farrell’s cokehead egomaniac after his beloved mentor passes away. Eventually, the three friends’ daily frustrations become too much, and an offhanded comment made over drinks gives way to serious consideration of murder.
What makes Horrible Bosses work is that all of its stars have been perfectly cast, including Jamie Foxx as the “murder consultant” the three friends turn to out of desperation. Spacey in particular seems to have been born to play an evil, jealous executive with bulging eyes who enjoys spitting out vitriol at others to make himself feel more important. Aniston and Farrell also have a lot of fun with their one-note roles, but their best scenes were given away in the film’s trailer, and overall their deranged characters were significantly less formidable than Spacey’s.
The film, directed by Seth Gordon (Four Christmases), would have been much stronger if it would have focused its humor on the boss/underling tensions and the amateurs’ attempts to get away with murder instead of randomly throwing in raunchy jokes every ten minutes in what comes off as a lazy attempt at lowest-common-denominator laughs. For example, when the guys encounter an old friend of theirs at the bar who’s been out of work for a while, can’t find a job because of The Economy, and sheepishly asks them for money, it serves to take the “Why don’t they just quit?” option off the table. That’s fine. But when that same friend then offers the guys sexual favors? I mean, come on. What purpose does that serve? Another instance of this “Really?” type of humor is when Nick and Kurt get into a discussion about who would get raped more, should they land in jail. Ugh. I had no problem with all of Aniston’s pervo lines—we really needed to understand why Dale hated her so much and what was at stake for him and his impending marriage if his work situation continued to escalate. But outside of that context, the film’s other crude humor fell flat and seemed shoehorned into the script.
It’s disappointing when otherwise funny comedies find it necessary to go this route. I felt the same way about Bridesmaids‘ infamous “diarrhea and throw-up scene,” as you may recall. Both Bridesmaids and Horrible Bosses prove throughout the rest of their running times that they are smarter and better than those bottom-of-the-barrel laughs, which weren’t necessary and ended up cheapening their casts’ performances. Thankfully, both films have enough else going for them that they are successful despite those scenes. In the case of Horrible Bosses, besides its stellar cast, there are some clever twists that elevated the plot in ways I didn’t expect. Bateman, Day, and Sudeikis nail every reaction shot and response to their respective bosses’ inappropriate remarks. And while Foxx’s character probably wasn’t critical to the storyline, I (as always) loved every minute he was on-screen. Finally, the hilarious outtakes that play over the end credits helped mitigate my disappointment at What Could Have Been. Because that’s really the biggest issue I have with Horrible Bosses: it could have been the best comedy of the year. But instead its script was too hit-or-miss, and its star power could only go so far.
Redbox movies from the cast of Horrible Bosses:
- Jason Sudeikis in Hall Pass, on DVD and Blu-ray
- Jason Bateman in Paul, on DVD and Blu-ray
- Jason Bateman in The Change-Up, coming to Redbox on December 6 on DVD and Blu-ray
- Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman in The Switch
- Colin Farrell in The Way Back
- Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day in Going the Distance
- Jamie Foxx in Due Date