Tuesday 24 April 2012

Movie Review: Horrible Bosses (2011)

An old fashioned ensemble comedy with large dose of modern raunch, Horrible Bosses is a reasonably satisfying revenge fantasy. With almost every role played by a recognizable face, there is enough on-screen talent to overcome the irksome moments when wit is replaced by juvenile antics.

Nick (Jason Bateman), Dale (Charlie Day) and Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) are friends who find themselves stuck dealing with cruel and detestable bosses. Corporate executive Nick is working hard in the hope of securing a promotion to vice president, but his ruthlessly manipulative boss Harken (Kevin Spacey) is just squeezing Nick for all his worth with no intention of rewarding honest effort. Meek dental hygienist Dale works for Dr. Julia Harris (Jennifer Aniston), and she is an unapologetic maneater, eager to have sex with Dale despite his engagement to fiancĂ©e Stacy (Lindsay Sloane). Kurt is an amiable mid-level manager at a chemical production company, but when the elderly president (Donald Sutherland) dies suddenly, his good-for-nothing son Bobby (Colin Farrell) takes over. Bobby is a weasel addicted to sex and coke, and proceeds to redirect all profits into his pocket while making Kurt's life intolerable.

With other job opportunities non-existent, the three victims dream-up an ill-conceived and half-baked idea to summarily murder all three of their bosses. Their bumbling efforts lead them to supposed hit-man Dean "Motherf***er" Jones (Jamie Foxx), who doles out suspect advice and quickly proves to be much more trouble than he's worth. Not that there is a plan, but not much goes according to any plan, and before long Nick, Dale and Kurt are in a state of bewilderment and indeed dealing with one dead body, with the police closing in from all sides.

Director Seth Gordon follows up the limp Four Christmases with this effort, and he is progressing. Horrible Bosses has a welcome edge, providing the comedy with sharp elbows to force its way out of trouble. The three bosses are indeed horrible, and Spacey, Aniston and Farrell attack the characters with undisguised relish. Spacey hisses corporate evil, full of classic self-promotion and despicable connivance. Aniston gives Dr. Harris an out of control lust for illicit sex with employees and patients, and a running joke is how, with Aniston as the aggressor, this can that be a bad thing. Farrell goes all 1970s retard for the character of Bobby, a child-man lost in the world of sex, drugs, and bad Kung Fu delusions.

The victims are almost as interesting. Bateman as usual provides the anchor as the most sane of the three, Day plays Dale as overexcitable and immature, while other than work, Kurt has one thing on his mind: how to bed the next attractive woman he meets. The three bounce effectively off each other and for the most part their scenes together work, although sometimes the comedy is stretched too thin.

Almost stealing the show is Jamie Foxx as Dean Jones, a criminal who adopted the name Motherf***er to overcome the prissy persona of the The Love Bug actor. Jones presents a formidable image but underwhelming assistance when it comes to terminating the horrible bosses, pocketing $5,000 and providing advice that could be picked up from any television cop show. His faux menacing scenes are among the funniest in the movie.

In addition to solid comedy, Horrible Bosses provides a great intangible benefit: real-life bosses don't seem so bad, after all.

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