HORRIBLE BOSSES. Starring: Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell, Jennifer Aniston, Jamie Foxx, and Donald Sutherland. Directed by Seth Gordon, Rated MA 15+. Restricted. (Strong sexual references and coarse language). 97 min.
This is a movie about three very unhappy employees, Nick Hendricks, Kurt Buckman, and Dale Arbus. They all have awful bosses.
Nick (Jason Bateman) works for Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey), and Dave is the kind of boss who privately promises Nick a promotion, and then sadistically asks his employees to come together so that he can award the promotion to himself. Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) is totally under the abusive scrutiny of his ex-boss’s amoral and drug-addicted son, Bobby (Colin Farrell), after his ex-boss (Donald Sutherland) dies of a sudden heart attack. Dale (Charlie Day) works as a dental assistant, who is harassed constantly by a sex-crazed, Dr. Julia Harris (Jennifer Aniston). She is a dentist, who threatens to tell his fiancée that he is having sex with her, unless he does.
Under the influence of alcohol, the group of three wantonly decide that murder of their bosses is their only option. The result is a very funny movie with scenes that clearly aim for slapstick effect. They hire Jamie Foxx, an ex-con, as their murder consultant to help them in their plans. Jamie is not a suitable person for the task, particularly when he provides advice on how to kill the bosses that is not helpful at all. He is just happy that three white men are paying good money to a black man.
There is a lot of aggression, drug-taking, and sexual innuendo in this film, and the language is frequently foul. The film is about people at the end of their tether, who all have good reason to hate their boss. Each of their bosses is abusive, overbearing, and aggressive, and they lose control. Bateman plays it relatively straight. Sudeikis is self-effacingly appealing. The funniest of them, however, is Day in his forlorn attempts to ward off the sexual advances of his predatory, female boss. The comic timing of the entire cast is excellent, and everyone turns in a virtuoso performance which gives the film substantial comic bite.
Because murder is at the film’s core, the comedy is a dark one, and the film at times slips over in its excess to use jokes that are homophobic, and racist. The movie takes swipes at paraplegics, fat people, Asians, and homosexuals. The plot of the film twists and turns with almost every conceivable circumstance being manipulated to try to make the planned deaths look accidental. Nearly everything misfires, but each of the three men solves his original problem. Nick is eventually promoted to being Acting President of his company, Kurt gets a new boss, and Dale blackmails Julia into ending her persecution of him by manipulating her into sexually harassing a seemingly unconscious patient, while he secretly records what she is doing.
The final credits tell you that the actors in this movie have enjoyed making it immensely. Spacey is wonderful as the emotionally aggressive and abusive boss, Day is terrific as Julia’s set-upon dental assistant, and Aniston, well out of type, is raunchily very convincing as the dentist on the prowl.
There is hardly anything in this movie that does not have something to do with amoral revenge. It aims for political incorrectness, comic scenes are often exaggerated, and some of the jokes are borderline offensive and don’t come off. Also, it is not a film that tells you a great deal about the background of any of the characters involved. But, it tells you not to care too much in the over-the-top mayhem which results.
The film is a collection of comic moments that survive, despite their lack of believability, and with the help of clever scripting and some fast-paced repartee, it finds its intended targets.
Peter W. Sheehan is associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.
Out August 25, 2011.