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Non-Review Review: Horrible Bosses

“You can’t win a marathon without putting some bandaids on your nipples!” Dave Harkin, the “psycho” boss of Nick Hendricks, insists throughout the movie. It’s curious, because Horrible Bosses feels like a movie pacing itself for a marathon – and that’s not a bad thing at all. It’s consistently funny, with the humour spread evenly over most of the runtime. It’s hard to point to particularly brilliant sequences that had the audience in stitches, but instead the room was constantly giggling throughout. It’s a solidly entertaining comedy, which makes the most of a clever premise and superb cast, even if it does falter just a little bit as it reaches the finish line.

Spacey is boss...

The movie’s core plot is brilliantly straight-forward. Three put-upon guys conspire to kill their bosses, who are horrible – each in a variety of unique and insane ways. However, while the movie has a great deal in presenting its three antagonists (a nymphomaniac played by Jennifer Aniston, a psychotic played by Kevin Spacey and a horrible human being played by Colin Farrell), it works best as an almost random stream-of-consciousness comedy driven by the three very talented leads and the rather random situations they encounter.

Indeed, the best bits of the film follow the three incredibly inept friends as the do “recon” on their targets. In this case, “recon” is the most ineffectual breaking-and-entry one could imagine. There’s a genuine feeling of improvisation between the three leads, especially Jason Bateman and Jason Sudeikis, as they walk through what’s pretty much a surreal version of MTV’s Cribs. The three play off each other remarkably well, and they keep the film going as they talk to “Gregory” on their sat-nav, or discuss the fate they’d face in prison. In fact, the movie is at its best when it’s just rambling sort of pointlessly, only tangentially related to the main plot – the idea of three guys conspiring to kill their bosses.

Meet the new chair-man...

The plot seems to have been included merely as an excuse to cast Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell and Jennifer Aniston in the roles of villains. For Aniston and Farrell, it seems the pair are greatly enjoying the opportunity to play against type, while Spacey has played this sort of character before, but seems to relish the opportunity to turn the volume up to eleven. Again, the random sequences with the characters work really well – especially Farrell’s attempts to seem managerial or a clip during the credits at a pharmacy – but the problem comes in the fact that movie has to tie them all together.

While the actors involved are having enough fun that it never comes off the rails, it seems that the movie does struggle a bit with its basic premise. The act of murdering three characters, even three horrible individuals, pushes a film into very dark territory, and the movie seems more than a little reluctant to go there, instead enjoying the opportunity to let the actors in question do their thing. The last half-hour of the film seems very carefully structured, rather than embracing the chaos or uncertainty that the premise and the earlier improvisation would suggest. Everything ties itself up rather too neatly, despite the fact it’s nice to see Wendell Pierce in the role of a police officer (and even a cameo from the “Old Spice” guy).

the movie's at its best when it gives its cast Spacey to work their magic...

Still, it’s a minor complaint, especially when the movie is so gleefully cheeky. I love the fact that the film calls itself out on the double-standard that exists for male victims of sexual harassment and even assault. When Dale explains that his boss is constantly trying to force him to sleep with her, his mates respond with, “Yours doesn’t sound too bad.” In fact, it’s quite telling that – at least until the climax of the film – Dale’s boss is the only one vile enough to threaten to ruin him personally (rather than “just” professionally). Not only does she invite Dale’s wife-to-be over as an implicit threat, she also threatens to blackmail him – explicitly stating that no one will believe him because he’s the man in this situation.

The movie repeatedly points out how Dale’s problems are easily ignored and mocked by those around him, because very few people take the threat of sexual harassment (or even assault) against men seriously. “Why don’t you just sleep with her?” his friends ask at one point, completely missing the point that Dale doesn’t want to. Without ever getting too heavy-handed, the movie offers a rather telling examination of the kind of culture that dismisses his legitimate claims. It’s not going to win any awards for social justice or any of that, but it’s actually a nice enough handling of the subject matter.

She'll talk the ear off you...

As I mentioned above, it’s the cast that make the movie. There’s an awesome cameo from Ioan Gruffudd as a “wetworks” specialist. The six leads are having a great time. In particular, Aniston hasn’t been this good, or this courageous, since The Good Girl, and it’s great to see her being adventurous. I honestly hope the trend continues. The actors all play well off each other, and the movie is confident enough to give them all room to work their magic.

The only real problem with Horrible Bosses is the plot, I suppose. The fact that the movie needs to resolve itself in a linear and straight-forward manner with all the loose ends tied up. It really works at its best when it’s more free-form, and looser – when the film has room to breath. Still, it’s a nice and entertaining little film.

6 Responses

  1. I doubt the film needed a writer considering how good the three leads were off-script.

    • Yep, it was at it’s best when it felt like an improv troupe at work. It’s a shame in a way, because the plot was quite brilliant, but it felt a little wasted and pointless amid the wonderful wackiness.

  2. I really enjoyed this movie. In fact, I enjoyed it much more than Bridesmaids which I’m a bit sick of hearing is the comedy of the year.

  3. It’s interesting to see the wildly varried opinions on Horrible Bosses and it kind of makes me want to see the movie even more. Not that I needed the extra push, with Charlie Day and Jason Bateman (not to mention the rest of the great cast) I wanted to see it anyway. I would have seen it in the theater but just had too much going on during that time frame. Now I have it in my Blockbuster Movie Pass queue. This is the kind of thing that makes me appreciate Blockbuster even more, Redbox won’t have Horrible Bosses until sometime in November, plus if I really don’t like a movie I rent I can always bring it in for an in-store exchange. It’s a great deal especially when you consider for $10 a month you get DVD’s, Blurays and video game rentals by mail, a ton of instant streaming content and 20 movie channels. Also as a DISH Network employee I love telling people that when they sign up for DISH they can get 12 months of Blockbuster completely free.

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