Friday, 22 July 2011

Horrible Bosses (Seth Gordon, 2011) Review

Alfred Hitchcock proves a peculiar inspiration for revenge comedy Horrible Bosses (2011)

If you're going to call your movie Horrible Bosses then you'd better make sure that A) you have some bosses, and B) that they're pretty damn horrible. Hell, if you're going to make the audience believe that three ordinary schlubs like Nick (Jason Bateman), Dale (Charlie Day) and Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) are going to kill said bosses, they'd better be positively execrable. Simply put, you'd better make The Devil's Advocate (Hackford, 1997), but with laughs. So, has Horrible Bosses succeeded? Let's find out...

If you've seen the trailer then you've pretty much seen the first fifteen minutes of the film, but for those of you who haven't, the setup works like this: Nick works for Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey), a manipulative, power-hungry psycho who works his employees like the minimum wage slaves they are (in his mind). So yes, this is basically Spacey revisiting his Swimming With Sharks (Huang, 1994) role. Dale works for Julia Harris (Jennifer Anniston), a nymphomaniac dentist who is obsessed with getting her assistant into bed, despite him being engaged. Provocative, slutty and completely potty-mouthed, she is, as the poster proclaims, a maneater. Kurt works for Bobby Pellitt (Colin Farrell), a sleazy, coke snorting maniac who's entirely vain and self-obsessed, despite sporting a disastrous (but hilarious) combover. He's only running the business to accumulate enough wealth to live his dream: sitting on the beach sipping cocktails.

So, we're introduced to the bosses in swift and funny fashion, with Farrell landing the most laughs as his scenery chewing dickwad, whose crazy eyes and vile mannerisms prove the actor as a true comic talent, if that hadn't already been confirmed by In Bruges (McDonagh, 2008). The script flits between the three (likable) leads with ease, and I found myself getting onboard with it, but then the movie forgets both its comic ace card and central plot device (not to mention its selling point): the bosses. Yep, you'll be having a great time for the first fifteen minutes, and like me will probably be looking forward to seeing what extremes the bosses reach. But then the film all but forgets about them and shifts the entirety of its focus to Nick, Dale and Kurt. They have great chemistry, sure, but... the movie is called Horrible Bosses. Should there not be an attempt to reinforce our protagonists cause for murder? I mean, even forgetting narrative, shouldn't the film have more sense than to abandon its funniest characters just shy of the quarter-way mark? It's crazy, and I just can't imagine what the filmmakers were thinking.

On the other hand, perhaps more screen-time with the bosses would have bogged the film down, and I appreciated the 90-minute running time, seeing as we're living in an age of the bloated summer comedy (Funny People, Apatow, 2009, and Bridesmaids, Feig, 2011, I'm looking at you), where plot seems to be abandoned for the sake of another puke joke at around the time we need to be leaving the theater. Horrible Bosses actually has a solid idea at its core, and its three screenwriters (not a crowd, surprisingly) take it to unpredictable places, and all within a neat running time that won't numb your bum or have you staring at your watch. This also means that, while there aren't loads of laughs in the film, they're closer together, and that's a good thing.

Horrible Bosses is probably the best Hollywood comedy of 2011 so far, but hey, it's been a crappy year. But the chip on my shoulder should be aimed at the garbage I've been subjected to before Gordon's film, and it's worth noting that a mainstream, star-studded, 15-rated comedy can be genuinely entertaining without being morally bankrupt or packed with innuendo. If you're looking for dick jokes then you'll get them, but you'll also get something a bit edgier and darker than your standard fare (I say again, Farrell's gonzo turn is a treat), and the final shot had be bearing a grin a mile wide, which I really hadn't expected. Also, when was the last time you walked out of a Hitchcock-inspired revenge comedy and said: "I wish it had more Jennifer Anniston." Yep. I thought so...

1 comment:

  1. The premise may sound hilarious, and it may sound stupid, depending on the individual, but if you can appreciate the humor in laughing at people whose intentions are never carried out in the right way, then you will love Horrible Bosses. It has a lot of swearing and a lot of adult concepts, but the funny is so nicely tied in with all the crude humor that it was hardly noticeable. Yes, not everything that was said, especially by the "maneater" and "tool" was politically correct, but the humor came out of their employees - who know that they shouldn't say or do those things - reacting to the awfulness that is their employers. Very funny. Charlie Day stole the show for me, but the entire cast has chemistry that shines through onscreen. Great casting, great writing, great movie.