Horrible Bosses

In this photo still provided by Warner Bros. Pictures, Jason Bateman, left, Charlie Day, center, and Jason Sudeikis are shown in a scene from “Horrible Bosses.”

“Horrible Bosses” is not the kind of comedy that delivers many gut-busting laughs. You know the guffaws I’m talking about — the ones that leave your sleeves completely saturated from dabbing away the tears that stream down your face.

But what director Seth Gordon’s film does supply is an incessant flow of efficient humor that will, at the very minimum, keep you smiling and giggling all the way from the title card to the closing credits.

Heavily inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s “Strangers on a Train” and Danny DeVito’s “Throw Mama from the Train,” “Horrible Bosses” is silly, absurd and overly moronic, but that’s what makes it so appealing and fun. The raunchfest from Gordon (“The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters” and “Four Christmases”) is an inappropriate, equal opportunity offender that doesn’t feel the need to dish out any apologies. And better yet, the screenplay written by Michael Markowitz, John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein never tries to be anything it’s not.

“Horrible Bosses” is simply a goofy story about three well-intentioned men who hate their jobs and want to literally kill the root causes of their workplace disdain: their despicable superiors. Sounds pretty morose, doesn’t it? But the movie isn’t actually that demented. That’s because the trio is so inept and innocuous that you never really believe their targets are ever in danger.

And we learn this right off the bat in Gordon’s hilarious introduction that presents us with some background information on each of the main players and their hated employers.

Jason Bateman’s Nick Hendricks, the clan’s sole voice of reason, has been working 12-hour days for years while following every order from his cantankerous supervisor, Dave Harken (a smarmy Kevin Spacey), in the hopes of securing a lucrative promotion. But he soon realizes that advancement is just a pipe dream.

Then there’s Jason Sudeikis’ Kurt Buckman, a skirt-chasing accountant who genuinely adores his boss (Donald Sutherland) at the chemical company where he works. But when the old man kicks the bucket, the business is handed over to his heartless, cocaine-addicted son (Colin Farrell), who wants to squeeze all the profits out of the operation before running it into the ground.

And finally we have Charlie Day’s Dale Arbus, an engaged dental assistant who is having a difficult time maintaining his dignity due to the explicit sexual advances of his nymphomaniac overseer, Dr. Julie Harris (Jennifer Aniston, playing against type), which get more lewd and lascivious after each passing encounter.

Due to the economy being in the tank the guys can’t quit their jobs (this is all reiterated in a priceless sequence that involves a Yale graduate who can’t even find a position waiting tables), so one night, after a few beers, they hypothetically ponder the idea of offing the thorns in their sides. At first they don’t take the harebrained notion too seriously, but their plan becomes a little more real when they receive some expensive advice from an ex-convict (Jamie Foxx) who suggests they kill each other’s bosses so there are no identifiable motives for the crimes.  

Nick, Kurt and Dale have no experience in the field of stakeouts or murder, so naturally, everything that can go wrong, does go wrong. And that is what provides “Horrible Bosses” with a majority of its comedy. It’s almost always entertaining to watch actors do insanely stupid things in front of the camera, and it’s even more enjoyable when we’re dealing with people as gifted as Bateman (“The Switch”), Sudeikis (“Hall Pass”) and Day (TV’s “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”).

The three of them have already proven on numerous occasions that they have the ability to be tremendously funny all on their own, but the natural chemistry they share is even more impressive. As the film plods along the knuckleheads are placed in one ridiculous situation after another, and their hysterical interactions and banter make it extremely hard to wait for what’s coming up next. (The movie, which in many ways is unpredictable, does contain a clever a plot twist about halfway through that turns the narrative upside-down.)

But what really makes the film so effective is the performances from the thespians who portray the slimy bosses in the crosshairs. Spacey is so convincing as an intolerable jerk that it seems like his comeuppance can’t come soon enough, and although her role can get a little one-note, it’s refreshing to see Aniston do something so utterly different and naughty. But I only wish — and I suspect you will as well — that Farrell, who is almost unrecognizable with his comb-over and protruding gut, would have been given more screen time.

When you think about it though, Farrell’s uniquely deranged character is comparable to “Horrible Bosses” as a whole — when it’s all over you are left with the feeling that something is missing. Yes, it’s one of the better comedies in recent memory, but when a film includes such a talented cast, you can’t help but expect more.

3.5 stars (out of 5)

Comments can be directed to Adam at adamt@wdtimes.com

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