I can only imagine how hard it must really be to get your foot in the door these days in Hollywood. Festival circuits seem to be the most worthwhile. Make something crowd pleasing or maybe even some kind of instant classic and the suits are swiftly upon you. Next thing you know, you’ve gone from a well-received documentary about two rival Donkey Kong champions (King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters), to one of the two worst Christmas revolving films: Four Christmases; the other being Fred Claus. After taking a breather with some TV credits to hone one’s craft, Seth Gordon finally makes his big screen break with Horrible Bosses.
I love a good dark comedy. While my taste runs the gauntlet from Death Becomes Her, The War of the Roses, Serial Mom, Grosse Pointe Blank, to Very Bad Things, sometimes there’s nothing wrong with horrible things happening to horrible people. Such is most definitely the case in Horrible Bosses. Office Space this is not. While none of the writers involved are household names, there’s a lot of energy running through Michael Markowitz, John Francis Daley (Freaks and Geeks), and Jonathan M. Goldstein’s script. Even if there’s also an abundant case of obvious improvisation happening between the cast as showcased during the hilarious end credits.
Nick (Jason Bateman), Dale (Charlie Day), and Kurt (Jason Sudeikis), all have the epitome of Horrible Bosses. Nick works for Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey in a Lester Burnham meets Buddy Ackerman hybrid), aka “Total Fucking Asshole,” where he is lead to believe that he’s first in line to becoming the new Senior Vice-President of Sales. Dale works alongside Dr. Julia Harris (Jennifer Aniston), aka “Evil Crazy Bitch, D.D.S.,” where she likes to sexually harass him by spraying his crotch with water picks or wearing nothing but panties and an overcoat. And Kurt used to work for Jack Pellit (Donald Sutherland), that is until the day he dies from a heart attack and the family business is handed over to Jack’s son Bobby (Colin Farrell), aka “Dipshit Cokehead Son.”
Life is literally hell for our trio of friends who like to gather for drinks to “hypothetically” discuss how much easier things would be if they all killed their bosses. At first they figure they could all quit their jobs, at least until they run into their old friend Kenny (P.J. Byrne) who’s so strapped for cash after getting caught up in the Lehman Brothers fiasco, that he’ll resort to $40 handjobs in the men’s room. Now things are looking more literal after Dale finally gives in to the idea after Julia tries to get him to have sex with her on top of his fiancée Stacy (Lindsay Sloane). After they learn the true meaning of what “wetwork” is, the trio uses their new NaviMap friend “Gregory” (Brian George) to guide them to a dangerous bar where they hook up with “Mother Fucker” Jones (Jamie Foxx) who becomes their “murder consultant” for $5,000. Before you can say Throw Strangers from the Train, they head off for intel and recon to find what they need to finally find their way out.
It should come as no surprise to see a rapport between Day and Sudeikis. The two played partners in comedic crime almost a year ago in Going the Distance. With Bateman as the straight man, there’s no joke these three can’t nail together. While the film may never really play up the more violent means to their end, the verbal sparring is a constant onslaught of hilarious. Just how much of the original script remains intact we may never know, but what winds up on screen is constant gold. Director Gordon keeps things running smoothly with each scenario working more as just a setup to some brilliant set pieces and even manages to pull off a surprisingly effective “boo moment.” It’s also nice to see things not get bogged down with any out of place extreme violence (here’s looking at you The Hangover Part II).
So it may not feature the heart of say, Bridesmaids; this film is playing more towards the type of crowd who wouldn’t want that anyway. We’re more in the kind of territory Bad Teacher is mining to great lengths and this summer seems to be the reckoning of some hilarious comedies. While other summer movies may be relying more on 3-D enhanced CGI spectacle, it’s nice to see a few movies playing things in a more traditional sense. So long as next month’s 30 Minutes or Less can manage to keep up, we should see summer 2011 batting 4-0, because thankfully, Horrible Bosses serves up another home run.
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