Horrible Bosses (2011)
Rated R for crude and sexual content, pervasive language and some drug material
Horrible Bosses is the dumb comedy we all needed in 2011. Back then, everybody could sympathize with the main characters' plight -- even if you were employed, the bad economy and lack of prospects elsewhere meant that, if you tried to tell your asshole boss "take this job and shove it", you'd be on welfare and food stamps in a heartbeat. Watching it today, now that the height of the Great Recession is behind us and things are (slowly) recovering, it already feels like a time capsule from four years ago, with jokes about the Lehman Brothers collapse and more peppering the flick. It's not a great comedy by any stretch of the imagination, but it's still hilarious, and furthermore, it's the sort of film that's likely to live on for years to come, partly by virtue of capturing its time as perfectly as it did but also because it's just a really funny movie.
Our main characters are Nick (Jason Bateman), Dale (Charlie Day), and Kurt (Jason Sudeikis), three friends who all share something in common: they really, really hate their bosses. Nick is a financial executive and underling to David Harken (Kevin Spacey), the egomaniac president of the company who takes perverse joy in making life in his little cubicle farm fiefdom a living hell. Dale is an assistant to Julia (Jennifer Aniston), a nymphomaniac dentist who sexually harasses him despite knowing that he has a fiance, calling him a pussy-whipped homo when he spurns her advances. Kurt used to like his boss, the kindly old man Jack Pellitt (Donald Sutherland in a cameo), but Jack's sudden death from a heart attack leaves the company in the hands of his son Bobby (Colin Farrell), a raging douchebag who would happily run the company into the ground and loot it as his own personal piggy bank. None of them can readily quit their jobs, thanks not only to the recession but also to the fact that each of their bosses is, for various reasons, in a position where they can destroy their relationships and future job prospects. Eventually, they resolve to murder their bosses, enlisting the help of one "Motherfucker" Jones (Jamie Foxx), an ex-convict willing to guide them through it -- for a price. Unfortunately, shenanigans ensue thanks to their own bumbling combining with their bosses' twisted personalities.
The story here is broad, almost farcical, with each of the bosses being an over-the-top caricature who's more than willing to say out loud, to the protagonists' faces, just how big an asshole they are. However, that doesn't mean that they don't relish it, as Spacey, Aniston, and Farrell gleefully devour the scenery in their roles. Spacey plays Harkin as the sort of guy who would shoot you for looking at him (and especially his wife) funny, Farrell plays Bobby as an alpha-male, party-hard dudebro manchild whose life revolves around hookers and blow, and Aniston steps well outside her rom-com comfort zone as a hot, perpetually horny woman who wants sex and won't take no for an answer. They're all caricatures, but they're caricatures of the sort of people that everybody has likely met at some point in their lives. Our three protagonists aren't slouches either, with Sudeikis, Day, and Bateman proving their comic chops with both witty dialogue and crazy antics, doing the thing that, again, everybody has secretly thought about doing at some point in their lives. Foxx rounds out the cast, having a grand time playing a guy who's the image of a badass motherfucker (Jones) but... well, I won't spoil. It's this great cast that takes a very simple plot, and jokes that could've been dumb and mean-spirited in the wrong hands, and makes both of them work, producing a fun, crowd-pleasing comedy.
And make no mistake: this is a dumb movie. The plot pretty much barely matters except for the basic idea of it, and otherwise, it's a character-driven comedy through and through. The recession figures heavily into the protagonists' motivations, but beyond that, it's really just used for a few jokes. It's black comedy at its most straightforward, combining dark subject matter with an otherwise lightweight tone straight out of any number of Apatow-esque, R-rated comedies. Still, on that level, it was a fun watch that flew right by, never slowing down and constantly finding new ways to top itself. I was absolutely never bored watching this, and it easily held up on repeat viewing, which are among the surest signs of a damn good comedy in my book.
Score: 4 out of 5
Fairly insubstantial (and a bit dated) in hindsight, but extremely funny all the same, bringing together a great cast and some hilarious writing for a very fun experience that I swear was a lot shorter than it actually was. If you haven't seen this yet (ahem, James), definitely seek it out, as it's easily one of the funniest movies of the last several years.