Nick (Jason Bateman), Dale (Charlie Day), and Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) are best friends. They’re united by their love of hanging out, occasionally drinking too much, and complaining about their terrible bosses. Well, Nick and Dale hate their bosses, but Kurt’s the only one who kind of likes his boss (played in a glorified cameo by Donald Sutherland). Then, his boss dies, and his boss’ cokehead son takes over the family business with the intention to run it into the ground, wring it dry, and head down to Mexico with a gaggle of prostitutes and no shortage of drugs.
Meet the three bad bosses: Dave Harken, the cruel bastard (Kevin Spacey), Dr. Julia Harris, the sexually harassing basket case (Jennifer Aniston), and Bobby Pellitt, the worthless drug addict, sleaze ball (Colin Farrell). The guys are faced with a choice. Either suck it up and be run ragged by your bosses, or kill them. Fortunately, the guys have a man who seems to have the tools to help them with their crime, the ominously named Motherfucker Jones (Jamie Foxx).
Horrible Bosses is the kind of farce that happens whenever three idiots try to do anything needing a lot of brain power and skill. In its best moments, it’s like a Marx Brothers film mixed with Strangers On A Train, or a Three Stooges short with killing. In its worst moments, there’s just a lot of yelling and swearing.
Make no mistake about it. Horrible Bosses is very crude throughout, though it plays that vulgarity for comedy’s sake. It’s like someone watched The Hangover or your standard Judd Apatow movie, but not all the way to the end, and missed out on the standard Apatow heartwarming ending. Sure, there are some very funny segments in the script by Michael Markowitz, John Francis Daley (one-time star of Freaks And Geeks), and Jonathan M. Goldstein, but there’s also a lot of stuff thrown in for shock value, including a great deal of the language, not least the name of Foxx’s character. I’m far from a prude, but there were a lot of curse words in this movie.
That said, the cast is pretty spectacular. Kevin Spacey, in particular, is incredible as the vile, Dave Harken, who’s hateful of Nick. Jennifer Aniston, shockingly, is also very good as the sex-crazed boss of Dale. It’s obvious Aniston enjoys comedy roles and she really digs her teeth into this particular script with relish. Among the heroes, Charlie Day is, without a doubt, the funniest one of the three as the perfect idiot foil to the ladies’ man (Sudeikis) and the smart one (Bateman). This might be as close to a Zach Galifianakis-style breakout role as Charlie is going to get (unless he writes one for himself).
Director, Seth Gordon, has a lot of experience with ensemble comedies, and while he shoots with a bit of a television style, he also manages to keep his cast pretty evenly featured throughout, which is crucial in a group comedy. He also balances the time between the various story threads pretty well, to his credit. He doesn’t do anything flashy, but he doesn’t really have to. The script and the actors are where the comedy will come from, and Gordon wisely gets out of the way to let them do their thing.
Though not without its flaws, there are still some laughs to be had in Horrible Bosses. I don’t think it’s quite as crudely funny as, say, the Todd Phillips oeuvre (there’s your inevitable comparison to The Hangover), but it’s still not bad.
There are laughs to be had, which is more than you can say for Zookeeper. However, like Zookeeper, there should’ve been more with a cast like this. There’s a lot of comedy talent on screen during this film’s one hundred minutes, and it’s not as funny as it should have been.