Throwing all the right ingredients into a bowl doesn’t necessarily make a fucking cake. Horrible Bosses is a mess, underdone and underthought. Crude without being clever, over reliant on the belief that it SHOULD be funny whilst all evidence points to the contrary.
Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis play Nick, Dale and Kurt, three regular guys who (incredibly quickly) make a pact to murder each other’s nightmare bosses for the greater good. So far, So Strangers on a Train, but that’s it. That’s all we get. A casual rip off with bad jokes hung all over it
There is talent splashed all over the screen but it is never allowed to breathe within a structure that leaps and jerks across narrative gaps with no regard for that most crucial factor; GIVING A SHIT.
Blaming Seth Gordon, who so delighted us with King Of Kong, seems churlish when there are four screenwriters and a fistful of excellent comedy performers in the mix.
Jason Bateman (Nick), one of THE perfect straight men in Arrested Development is marked as a loser right from the start, claiming that “taking shit” is the key to success. He never really recovers. Can we all, collectively, find a suitable vehicle for Bateman before his turn as the bunny head wearing masturbator in the execrable Smokin’ Aces becomes his stand out role. His boss, a sneering, self-serving chief executive played by Kevin Spacey Gordon Gekko’s Bateman, nearly causing the audience to root for the bad guy. Spacey reprises his role from the excellent Swimming with Sharks with relish and doesn’t lose any dignity here.
Charlie Day (Dale) shot to fame with the sitcom It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (which he admirably wrote with two friends), the first series of which is a gem practically unheard of in England. Here he is a dental hygeinist fending off the disgustingly sexual advances of his dentist boss. What would be a horrible situation is totally undermined by casting Jennifer Aniston as his superior. She is so attractive, so assured and so filthy (upsettingly so Rachel fans) that it is impossible to imagine anything other than complete capitulation from Kurt.
Aniston, who progressively got better and became funnier as Friends lurched on and on, has been displaying her good comic timing and excellent hair in trash like Along Came Polly and The Switch (Bateman…..again) for years and it’s easy to point the finger at her for choosing these awful roles. What would be more depressing would be if Aniston was picking the best of a bad bunch, implying Hollywood doesn’t care for funny women (Anna Faris would agree) anymore.
Charlie Day is shrill but not unlikeable, making the most of his coke out sequence, a moment when he confuses Strangers on a Train and Throw Momma from the Train and a running gag about his presence on the sex offenders list. These are really the only low brow things that come out on top.
Jason Sudeikis (Kurt) fresh from the rightfully lambasted What Happens in Vegas and the almost ironically unfunny Hall Pass is an unlikely lothario having to cope with the company he loves being inherited by the coke snorting, call girl abusing son of the founder. This son is played by a balding, pot bellied Colin Farrel. He’s charmless in the best way and a good charicature of a plausable enough creation. He’s easily the best thing in Horrible Bosses when he clearly shouldn’t be.
The film skirts with poking fun at racism (Indian call centres, black criminals) and nearly falls over into just racism. Homophobia gets a nod and the three leads are so relentlessly stupid and incompetent it’s a wonder they even have bosses to contemplate murdering in the first place.
More than any of the above however is the way Horrible Bosses shoots itself in the foot by constantly evoking earlier, funnier films.Spilling cocaine screams Woody Allen, nervously entering a dangerous bar recalls Pryor and Wilder strutting into prison in Stir Crazy and an interrogation sequence makes you beg for the guile and skillful hitchhiker questioning in There’s Something About Mary.
This bromantic, improvised, over lapping, pseudo real speak, sub, sub genre of comedy hit it’s peak with Knocked Up. That it subsequently birthed this stillborn is insulting to the style, class and intelligence of that, almost perfect film.
Also, worst title since Very Bad Things.