Horrible Bosses, the latest vehicle in the newly revived R-rated comedy genre, is a rare find that runs on vulgar humor and operates as crime caper with just a hint of dark suspense. The premise is simple: three thirty-something buddies, Nick (Arrested Development’s Jason Bateman), Dale (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s Charlie Day), and Kurt (SNL’s Jason Sudeikis) can’t stand their respective bosses and conjure up a plan to kill them.
It sounds stupid, and that’s because it is. But thanks to the film’s stellar cast, who are unafraid to be as ridiculous as possible, Horrible Bosses is one of the funniest comedies of the year, and given its plethora of hysterical dialogue, could become the most quotable film in recent memory.
From the get-go, we’re introduced to the trio of truly atrocious and, well, horrible bosses who give the film its title. Nick’s boss, Dave Harken (a devilish Kevin Spacey, harking back to the glorious Swimming With Sharks), is an arrogant, egotistical monster with a vicious controlling streak. Early on in the film he forces Nick to drink a full glass of scotch in the morning in order to summon the courage to command a promotion that he inevitably doesn’t get.
Julia Harris, a sex-crazed dentist, played with uproarious fearlessness by Jennifer Aniston, constantly harasses Dale and blackmails him in the hope that he gives into temptation. Elsewhere, Kurt is disgusted by his boss, Bobby Pellit (an unrecognizable Colin Farrell), a self-centered drug addict whose first order of business is to fire all the “fat people” in the office.
When the three friends have finally had enough of their bosses’ antics, they hire a dubious murder consultant, Dean “Motherf—-r” Jones (Jamie Foxx), whose name alone is worth the price of admission, and plot to kill each other’s bosses so as to leave no direct connection between killer and victim. But, big surprise, the murder plots doesn’t go exactly as planned, which leads the film down a path of unending hilarity.
The exceptionally strong cast, that includes both comedy veterans and big-name actors, wields the black humor of the film with consummate ease. Nobody is afraid to go all the way, making each character uniquely memorable. The film’s leads, Bateman, Day, and Sudeikis, have an infectious chemistry that makes us want to be their friends, and their banter is priceless.
Bateman nails the deadpan humor of the despondent Nick with a blank stare and monotone speech pattern. Day makes the most of his diminutive frame and squeaky falsetto, making Dale the resident bumbling idiot. Sudeikis’ Kurt is the group’s ladies-man, and even though he has numerous memorable lines, he’s not as strong as his co-stars; but even though he’s only slightly weaker, he nevertheless adds much to the dynamic. The standout is easily Day, who is sure to become a star following this film and the continued success of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
Inevitably, it’s the bosses who really make the film. Spacey, Aniston, and Farrell, each of whom has a reputation for being a gifted dramatic performer, completely disappear into their ridiculous characters. Spacey makes Dave Harken a jerk in the truest sense of the term and is at times frightening with his cold and threatening stare-downs.
Aniston is shameless in her role of Julia Harris and keeps the naughty jokes coming. While it’s an unexpected role for Aniston to take on, she does so successfully and with ease; she’s just a riot, and she boldly abandons her girl-next-door image. Farrell pulls a Tom Cruise in Tropic Thunder as Bobby Pellit, donning a greasy comb-over and a fat suit. He’s vicious and power-hungry, but is also a fool, making his character’s despicable behavior not just cringe-worthy, but just plain funny.
The screenwriting debut of actor John Francis Daley, best known for his role on the cult television series Freaks and Geeks, the script mixes just the right amount of crudity and darkness into humor, but steers clear of crossing into violent territory. If the murder plot had actually succeeded, Horrible Bosses would have been a completely different film that undoubtedly would have taken away from the likeability of the conspirators (think Very Bad Things?).
But the fact that the film’s modern day three stooges gloriously fail to follow through with their convoluted idea makes the movie a hoot. Horrible Bosses is a rare treat that brings together raunchy comedy and sardonic humor successfully, making for a thoroughly enjoyable summer flick that will have you laughing out loud from start to finish.