Horrible Bosses (2011)

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IMDb Rating
6.9 out of 10 (view IMDb page)

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100 Minutes
Seth Gordon
Michael Markowitz

Weekly Volcano's Review

Rev. Adam McKinney on July 6th, 2011

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I was going to start this review of Horrible Bosses by stating that the movie's main problem is that the titular bosses are too cartoonishly awful.

Then, I thought about whether the notion of the film's heroes becoming so exasperated that murdering these bosses is their only option would be even the slightest bit believable if they weren't so over-the-top awful.

Then I realized: the real problem with Horrible Bosses is that the heroes are too dumb for us to sympathize with them. In a dark comedy like this, where we're supposed to side with our everyman protagonists in the face of a staggering goal, this becomes a more and more difficult task with each dumb action or statement made by the inept main characters.

As the film opens, we get a little glimpse into the maddening working conditions of three friends: Nick (Jason Bateman) has been slaving away for eight years under the oppressive thumb of the sadistic Mr. Harken (Kevin Spacey); Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) loved where he worked, until the wonderful Mr. Pellit (Donald Sutherland) passed away and was replaced by his coked-up maniac son, Bobby (Colin Farrell); and Dale (Charlie Day) is confronted every day with absurdly out-of-control sexual harassment - which everyone regards as no big deal - from his boss, Julia (Jennifer Aniston).

In these opening scenes, Nick, Kurt and Dale are presented as sensible people whose lives would be just fine if only these bosses would cease to exist. But as they begin to plan the ways in which they might dispatch these terrible people, their good senses fly out the door in favor of gags and jokes that might work fine on their own, but end up falling just on the wrong side of tone-dead in the context of Horrible Bosses.

It must be noted that the plot of Jennifer Aniston molesting Charlie Day never quite gels. It always sits there, awkward on the screen, as it waffles between being creepy and attempts at being titillating. The casting of such a beautiful actress in the role never stops feeling strange - as if our attraction to her makes us somehow complicit in her legitimate assaults on her employee. In the end, that portion comes off as awfully squicky.

This is not to say that there is nothing of value to be found in Horrible Bosses. The three would-be killers, despite the uneasy material that they're working with, are all intrinsically very likeable actors and end up carrying the majority of the screenplay's weight on the strength of their charisma alone. As the bosses, the three veteran actors clearly have fun chewing to tiny little pieces every bit of the scenery.

But there are only so many disparate pieces of inspiration and deft execution to be found here (among them being Jamie Foxx's funny extended cameo as the killers' "murder consultant"). The rest - which, as the blooper reel details, must have been a goddamn blast to shoot - is just too messy to recommend. I'd like to see these three leads work together again, possibly in something that makes better use of them. - Two out of four stars

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