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Overall Rating

Awesome: 7.14%
Worth A Look40.48%
Average: 23.81%
Pretty Bad: 14.29%
Total Crap: 14.29%

5 reviews, 12 user ratings

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Horrible Bosses
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by Erik Childress

"Throw Motherf***ers From The Train"
4 stars

The measure of a successful comedy in one's eyes is the obvious ability to make that person laugh. And often. The source of that laughter can manifest itself in any number of ways. Sometimes it is a universal truth or merely a personal recognition. Great comic writing can privy us to an observation we never considered before and the originality of that moment can lead to unexpected bouts of hilarity. As every year, comedies have had its high and low points in 2011 with various illustrations of the medium. Woody Allen took the charming, intellectual approach with Midnight In Paris. Romantic comedy got a surprising defib from Ivan Reitman in No Strings Attached. And almost everyone who has come in contact with Bridesmaids will tell you its the best comedy of the year (including yours truly.) Horrible Bosses is an interesting anamoly of a film. On the one hand, its not entirely original (a self-acknowledgment to its credit), spotty in its commitment to the darker elements of the material and the cracks of its writing and directing are apparent to any student of comedy. But damn if this is not an example of actors taking control of nearly every scene and turning it into one of the more consistently funny efforts of the year.

Nick (Jason Bateman), Dale (Charlie Day) and Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) are old high school pals now well settled into their jobs as adults. Their biggest problem should be evident by the title. Nick's boss, Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey), fancies himself an untouchable that likes to toy with his employee's vocabulary and even absorbs the position that Nick was hoping to be promoted to. Dale is a recently engaged dental hygenist working for nymphomaniac, Julia Harris (Jennifer Aniston), who wants nothing more than to absorb his penis. "Yours doesn't sound so bad," Kurt says in a statement that will be agreed upon by any male catching a glimpse of Aniston in an open lab coat. Kurt's boss is not so bad either. Until you realize he's played by Donald Sutherland and is due to be killed off soon enough, leaving his ne'er-do-well cokehead son, Bobby (Colin Farrell) in charge.

The three friends go from a hypothetical conversation about killing their bosses into actually seeking out a hitman to carry out the plan. The ironically named Dean "Motherfucka" Jones (a really funny Jamie Foxx) takes their money but only agrees to become their "murder consultant." His advice turns them onto the idea of the motive-freeing "criss-cross" scheme employed in Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train (or to more recent effect in DeVito's Throw Momma From The Train.) Each will recon the other's boss and look for weaknesses they can exploit to make their deaths look like an accident. Naturally its all easier than it sounds for a group of amateurs basing their decisions on Law & Order episodes.

There is a definite farce element to Horrible Bosses that someone like Blake Edwards (or more recently Jay Roach) may have exploited. The screenplay by TV writers Michael Markowitz, Jonathan Goldstein and Freaks & Geeks alum John Francis Daley is not nearly as ambitious though. Despite much of the salty language and un-PC observations, there is still a certain pleasantness to all involved. Our three heroes are generally decent guys and between Spacey and Ferrell, both characters are taken so far over-the-top on the asshole meter that it practically becomes self-parody. (In Spacey's case certainly having already portrayed one of the legendary bosses from hell in Swimming With Sharks.) Aniston's horny dentist never seems to get that extra mile moment that would transform her from a potty mouth to a full-on rapist. A rendezvous with her tail is only alluded to and a potentially hilarious phone sex call is undermined by the emphasis of noise attached to a big chase rather than Day's desperate attempts to please her. In other words, we are never of the belief that any of these people are actually going to die, especially Aniston (who does make a better commitment to her dark side than Cameron Diaz in Bad Teacher), and that leaves out the potential for some real dark surprises.

Aesthetic flaws and missed opportunities aside (like where is the payoff scene of Bateman drunk in the office after the Scotch?), once Horrible Bosses finds its footing in the dynamic between the three male leads, it truly takes off and rarely stumbles to deliver a big laugh. Compare Bateman, Day and Sudeikis here to Cooper, Helms and Galifiankis in The Hangover. You should not need more than the names, but every now and again even skilled comedians like Helms and Galifiankis need material and direction to make their presence and timing felt. The three guys in Horrible Bosses though appear to only need each other. Wherever the credit may lie between script and improv, the timing and energy could not be more right. Day and Sudeikis were already stealing scenes together in last year's underappreciated Going the Distance and Bateman continues to carve out his niche as the perfectly droll straight man. None of these roles are particularly fresh to any of them. Bateman and Day continue to enact the personas they perfected on their respective television shows (Arrested Development & It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia) while Sudeikis may have vaulted his sex-hungry character from Hall Pass directly into the proceedings here. But put together, there is little this trio is restricted from accomplishing.

Director Seth Gordon has also cut his teeth on some television after his wonderful video game record documentary, The King of Kong (which gets a couple side references here), and the abysmal feature "comedy," Four Christmases. There too Gordon had an amazing ensemble of actors (Vince Vaughn, Reese Witherspoon, Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek, to name a few) and a seemingly can't miss premise. So what went wrong? Could it be a script co-written by the authors of The Hangover? Or just that Gordon had not honed how to work with comedy within the confines of a scripted feature? Since that disaster he has worked with some of the best ensembles on television (including The Office, Modern Family, Community and Parks & Recreation) and if the worst thing that can be said about Horrible Bosses is that it plays like a feature-length sitcom, at least it is one where the audience is more than locked in to provide their own laugh track. Spacey's birthday entrance and the revelation of Foxx's "crime" more than make up for the trailers spoiling 90% of Farrell's work in the film. Then you have Bateman, Day and Sudeikis assuring that if Horrible Bosses is not the absolute funniest film of the year, it certainly makes an effort to come close.

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originally posted: 07/08/11 03:00:00
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User Comments

9/22/17 morris campbell funny imho 4 stars
9/03/12 Courtney Funny the whole way through. 5 stars
11/08/11 mr.mike Spacey's great , movie is consistently funny. 4 stars
7/24/11 Charles Tatum Foul mouthed and very funny 4 stars
7/19/11 damalc Dale wouldn't fuck Dr. Harris? Zero credibility. 4 stars
7/16/11 Jeff Wilder Puerile and crude. But funny. 3 stars
7/14/11 savvysweep1 Very funny movie 4 stars
7/12/11 Sean Just another reason I don't listen to talentless critics!!! 3 stars
7/12/11 Matt C Douchebag critics need a sense of humor. 5 stars
7/10/11 Cane Toad You have to be a joyless asshole to hate Charlie Day. 3 stars
7/10/11 Ashley So funny!!!!!!!! Its so stupid,but i truly enjoyed it. 5 stars
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  08-Jul-2011 (R)
  DVD: 11-Oct-2011


  DVD: 11-Oct-2011

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