Ineptness, Wet Work, and a Slew of Reasons to Laugh

Movie Review: Horrible Bosses (2011)
Summary: Three men plot the killing of their employers.
Spoilers: none 

Horrible Bosses is about three friends who meet for beers after work. They’d be indistinguishable from any other group of bar buddies until all three decide that they can’t stand it anymore and that their a-hole bosses must die.

“Nick” (Jason Bateman) works for “Dave Harken” (Kevin Spacey). Harken is a self-absorbed prick of a man who takes special delight in minimizing everyone under him. When Nick realizes he’s been waiting 8 years for a promotion he’ll never receive and will never be able to go anywhere else because of his boss, he’s ready to kill him.

“Kurt” (Jason Sudeikis), through an unfortunate circumstance, finds himself working for “Bobby Pellit” (Colin Farrell), a coke-head who doesn’t have the sense to run his own life, much less his father, “Jack’s” (Donald Sutherland) successful chemical company. Witnessing firsthand the mayhem Bobby is causing at work, Kurt is number 2 onboard the “Say yes to murder!” train.

“Kenny” (P.J. Byrne) is a registered sex offender due to a mild violation of urinating on a playground, and for that reason, glad to have his dentist assistant job—or at least he would be if his sex-addict boss, “Dr. Julia Harris” (Jennifer Aniston) would stop sexually harrassing him and making his life miserable at work just as he is engaged to “Stacy” (Lindsay Sloane). He is the last (and understandably so) to come around to the idea of killing his hot (but still horrible) boss.

When things don’t get better on their own or with the help of each day’s dose of a few beers, the three begin plotting – jokingly at first, and then seriously – on how best to murder their employers.

Getting glimpses of their own ineptness at the task, the three decide on hiring a hit-man and are led to “Dean ‘MF’ Jones” (Jamie Foxx), a self-described “murder consultant” who sees three stupids come into a ghetto bar and openly ask to hire an assassin. He figures they’re an easy target to make some money, and he’s right—more fun for us!

But this quest to rid the world of three bad bosses won’t be easy for our men, not when the “hire a hit-man” option doesn’t pan out. There are also the complications created from the personal habits of the people they seek to eliminate. And when the three find themselves in the middle of an actual murder investigation, the heat is on, and it’s not from a fire they started.

Much to our delight, this quest to “take care of business” is a comedy of errors, but it doesn’t stop there. It is a pleasant exercise in comedic character development, one that head writer Michael Markowitz and director Seth Gordon had a good grasp of. Competent storytelling skills are what made it possible to make these characters not just interesting, but entertaining and nearly brilliant in the way they are presented to us.

Horrible Bosses is the type of movie anyone who has ever had a job and a bad boss can relate to. The risqué dialog and racy sexual theme gets your attention, but no more quickly than the plot’s development, which sets itself up as an SNL script style of movie that you never for a moment doubt will entertain you right to the end. 

The film offers a fiercely well-acted ensemble of super stars in its cast, and with wit that makes this piece as memorable as it will become. Cameo appearances include Ron White as “Detective Samson” (White’s appearance as a detective in any movie is more nearly a laugh by itself) and Jamie Foxx whose portrayal of “MF Jones” is not only funny, but perhaps the best performance in the film.

With Spacey’s “Harken,” we have yet another intense, psycho character (the type Spacey is not unaccustomed to playing) who immediately instills in the viewer just how whacko he is. Bateman's dry “every-man” disposition and Sudeikis’ “party guy” mentality make these characters easy to relate to. Byrne’s “Kenny” is a character that was supposed to straddle the fence between average and socially challenged (he’s the Zach Galifianakis of this crowd), though his personality varies a bit too much. His voice changes drastically throughout the film, no doubt unintentionally.

A few uneven patches considered, this one is a great film. It is perhaps set back only by its lazy ending where the acting quality begins to decline ever so slightly. This may keep it from being viewed as an iconic comedy in hindsight, but who’s to say. The way the script handles itself with its turns that keep us anxiously watching is a mark of being beautifully built. 3 ½ stars for the fabulously funny, and definitely not horrible, Horrible Bosses. 


Grade: B+ (3 ½ stars)
Rated: R (profanity, sexual innuendo, adult themes, violence, drug and alcohol use)
Director: Seth Gordon
Starring: “Nick Hendricks” (Jason Bateman), “Kenny Sommerfeld” (P.J. Byrne), “Dave Harken” (Kevin Spacey), “Stacy” (Lindsay Sloane), “Dr. Julia Harris, D.D.S.” (Jennifer Aniston), “Kurt Buckman” (Jason Sudeikis), “Jack Pellit” (Donald Sutherland), “Bobby Pellit” (Colin Farrell), “Wetwork Man” (Ioan Gruffudd), “Atmanand” (Brian George), “Dean ‘MF’ Jones” (Jamie Foxx), “Rhonda Harken” (Julie Bowen)
Genre: Comedy