It’s tempting to label Horrible Bosses a post-Hangover comedy. For all I know it may have been in the works before that box-office smash saw the light of day, but it emits the same vibe, even if it doesn’t go to the same extremes. Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, and Charlie Day work well together as three ordinary guys who share one thing in common: abusive employers. They can’t afford to walk away from their jobs, so they fantasize about doing away with their bosses, then actually try to make that far-fetched scheme come true. It’s when their fumbling goes into high gear that the movie—
—finds its groove.
The bosses are played by Colin Farrell (who has relatively little screen time), Kevin Spacey (who’s frighteningly good—but then, he covered this ground once before in the 1994 indie Swimming with Sharks), and, in a nice gender twist, Jennifer Aniston (as a dentist who is sexually aggressive and demeaning to her assistant, Day).
The movie has just enough raunchiness to identify it as a 2011 comedy, just enough cleverness to admire, and just the right camaraderie among its three male stars, which turns out to be the movie’s greatest strength. Bateman plays straight-man exceedingly well. Saturday Night Live’s Sudeikis is the most daring and reckless of the group, while Day (who is best known for his work on the TV series It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, which he also co-created) gets the breakout role as the trio’s prime patsy. Jamie Foxx is quite funny in a featured role about which the less revealed the better.
Michael Markowitz, John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein wrote the screenplay, based on Markowitz’s story, and Seth Gordon, who made his name with the sleeper documentary The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, maintains a good balance between believability (when it matters) and farce. Horrible Bosses may not be exceptional but it is diverting, which is all one could ask of a mainstream Hollywood comedy.
P.S. I couldn’t help but notice, in the scenes set in Sudeikis’ apartment, a framed window card from The Son of Kong. I don’t know if this is an in-joke or an art director’s whim, but it certainly got my attention—even if it did distract me for a moment. All I know is, I want that guy’s decorator working for me.