Summer 2011 is turning out to be a fantastic summer for comedies– despite the presence of the second Hangover film. Horrible Bosses is a very funny film, and that success is largely due to the easy camaraderie between lead actors Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, and Jason Sudeikis. The cast is the crux to making a dark comedy work, and this trio hit a home run.
The movie revolves around one of America’s favorite pastimes, fantasizing about the death of your boss. Now I’m sure we’ve all been there, even in just a passing day dream, like Jason Bateman’s character in the movie, of grabbing our boss by the tie, dragging him across the floor, and throwing them out a high window. Right? Right. (To my boss, if you’re reading, NOT YOU.) Well what if your boss truly was a horrible person, and their death might even help just more than yourself? (Again, to my boss, NOT YOU.) In the film, what starts as a hypothetical undertaking quickly turns real, with Nick (Bateman), Kurt (Sudeikis), and Dale (Day) deciding that their bosses really deserve death.
Nick’s boss is played by the amazing Kevin Spacey, who shines in his role as the psychotic and egotistical Dave Harken. While he has always been a terrible boss, what sets Nick over the edge is being lied to about a promotion, while Harken gives it to himself and calls it ‘motivating.’ He also refused to let him leave early when his grandmother was dying. Dale’s frustration over his boss’s (Jennifer Aniston) sexual harassment finally crescendos when she threatens to show disingenuous pictures to his fiancé. When Kurt’s boss, Jack Pellitt (Donald Sutherland) suddenly passes away, his son Bobby (Colin Ferrell), described as a ‘weaselly scion,’ takes over. To make matters worse, Bobby is also an amoral cokehead who only wants to use his father’s company to squeeze out as much money has he can as quickly as possible (presumably to spend it all on hookers, drugs, and martial arts lessons).
All three of the bosses are played with wicked zeal, and Spacey is especially fear-inducing as Harken. I would really like to single out Aniston, though, who gives her best film performance in 5 or 10 years as Dale’s sexually aggressive knows-no-boundaries boss. Aniston has been starring in commercially successful yet awful films, and this is a nice change of pace for an actress with great comedic chops.
In watching this film, I couldn’t help but be struck by the idea that this is what The Hangover 2 could have been. It’s a similar situation in that a trio of characters try to navigate an escalating horrible situation, but with more charm, wit, and originality than Todd Philips’ sequel could muster. It’s almost a shame they didn’t just buy the script when they had the chance. But I’m glad they didn’t, because I love this film so much.
I love dark comedies, and Horrible Bosses is one of the best in recent memory, and the second ‘don’t miss’ comedy of the summer. It’s the kind of film with a lot of raunchy humor, but what makes the film funny is not the shock value, it’s the delivery and the earnestness of the characters. The leads are lovable screw-ups, not unlike Kristen Wiig in Bridesmaids. You want them to succeed in spite of their mission, because you want things to get better for them. Ultimately, of course, the film shows that it isn’t always possible to work in an ideal environment, even if you like your job.