“Horrible Bosses” taps into a certain wish-fullfillment-fantasy that I’ve never had to experience — offing one’s boss to make one’s life better. For obvious reasons, my experience in a professional workplace is somewhat limited. But what I can appreciate, is encountering total ineptitude when trying to accomplish a goal. “Bosses” is really about both; dealing with three nice-enough guys whose various psycho bosses have pushed them a little too far, into the realm of plotting murders against them.
The guys are Charlie Day and two Jasons – Bateman and Sudeikis. Their respective bosses are Jennifer Aniston, Kevin Spacey, and Colin Farrell. The various conflicts between the six of them drive “Horrible Bosses” – and this is precisely why it’s so damn funny. Because the humor stems from genuine chemistry between human beings, some crazier than others. It’s not wrought from a dog defecating into a stew or a guy hitting a wall — the humor here comes from the simplest of things, like facial expressions, even pauses.
Mind you, the dialogue in this film is absolutely on-point. The one-liners the characters are given in this film are killer — in particular, the “bosses” where the film gets its name. Jennifer Aniston’s sex-crazy dentist, Kevin Spacey’s calculating murderer, and Colin Farrell’s balding, coked-out maniac all chew their respective scenes to pieces, and when the “bosses” begin interacting amongst each other, some absolutely hilarious stuff goes down.
What makes “Horrible Bosses” work, and what prevents it from veering into totally ridiculous, implausible camp, is the fact that these three bosses are truly loathsome, mean-spirited people. Director Seth Gordon never does the disservice of trying to give them any sort of depth or characterization. Why should they need it? Their function is cruelty.
What’s remarkable is that even when the bosses aren’t on-screen, the film’s comedic momentum keeps going. The inter-play between the three lovable shmucks looking to take out their office superiors is part of it. You buy that they’re all average, genuine guys with lives, hopes, dreams. And twisted as their plots are, one truly wishes the best for them.
As far as studio comedies go, this is fairly edgy stuff. When’s the last time a movie killed off someone as respected as Donald Sutherland within 10 seconds of their entrance? It never gets into morally-questionable along the lines of, say, a “Hangover: Part II”, but its humor remains just as dark and twisted. Jamie Foxx as the guys’ shady “murder consultant” is hysterical. One particular gag involving why his character ended up in jail pays off brilliantly.
The best comedy often taps into a darker, shadier side. “Horrible Bosses” accomplishes precisely that with a quick pace, sharp script, and eye for actors and letting them all play off one another. Explain to me why this feels like a far better follow-up to “The Hangover” than that film’s own sequel ever did? B+