Horrible Bosses is like the three stooges in a Hitchcock movie.
Thankfully the slapstick is kept to a minimum – happening only once – but it works because of the foolhardiness of the character trying to make a clean dive into a garage before it closes.
And the premise lives up to its name of Hitchcockian grandeur. All of the bosses are horrible, with the possible exception of Jennifer Aniston’s Julia, who quite frankly lacks the “-ible.” The more unsuccessful she is in bedding her dental assistant, (Charlie Day), the more unapologetically lustful she gets, at one point threatening to tell his fiancé they slept together – but only if they don’t.
The others, though – Kevin Spacey’s David and Colin Farrell’s Bobby – truly are despicable human beings. Spacey once again mesmerizes in a villainous role (as he did in 21), this time bringing a smug, power-tripping superior to the screen. There is not even minor sympathy for this character, even when we find out his wife sleeps around on him like a virus.
Farrell’s Bobby is another piece of work who outright admits that he’s only taking over his father’s company so he can raise enough money to flee toHawaiiand snort coke while women serve him cold cocktails. The epitome of self-absorption, Farrell’s role is another that is well-filled, completing the film’s hydra of workplace horror.
While the bosses serve as hyperbolic, farcical catalysts for the film’s plot, their respective subordinates are responsible for carrying it. Jason Bateman plays Nick, who’s been stuck in the same position for years and is passed up on a sure promotion when Spacey picks himself for the role instead. Jason Sudeikis is also the shoo-in to be boss, but when the boss of the ink company (Donald Sutherland) dies in a car accident, it’s his son Bobby who takes the reins. Charlie Day’s Dale is perhaps the most sympathetic of the three (who wouldn’t want to be hit on by the sultry Ms. Aniston, especially when she uses such classy lines as “I want you to slap my face with your cock.”). Dale is the most nervous and mouse-like of the three (apt phrasing courtesy of Sarah “Michelle”) and probably provides the most humour.
Together, they are three friends who bear the burden of their work days to one another over drinks, eventually hatching a plan to off their bosses. Walking into the wrong part of town where they figure they’ll be likely to find a hitman (at least more so than by hiring a “wetworker”), they encounter “Motherfucker” Jones (Jamie Foxx), an opportunist who lends them advice for the hit. Motherfucker’s real name is “Dean,” but he can’t be seen with a “Disney” name in that part of town. Understandable choice, especially when such laughs as “how are you, Motherfucker?” arise.
As with many buddy comedies these days, many of the laughs come from the style of over-speculation that was popularized by Seinfeld and perfected by Curb Your Enthusiasm. It’s naturally amusing to have straight-laced forty-somethings try to be hip, using phrases like “bend her over and show her the fifty states” that don’t actually exist – at least till now (as Sudeikis observes in the credits).
While it’s an original concept, some scenes drizzle with cliché, one instance of which is the use of cats. When was the last time you were watching a comedy and a cat didn’t leap out of nowhere and shriek? Another is the requisite car chase, which provides comedic thrills at times but is otherwise terribly redundant. But it’s hard to stay critical. Even when we’re watching three stooges faced with a Hitchcockian predicament, we laugh our heads off at the bumbling idiocy of our heroes – and perhaps grin at the offchance that their bosses’ fates could one day be shared by our own.