Saturday, July 9, 2011

Love: Horrible Bosses

I'm not quite sure when it happened, but it did.  At some point over the last couple years I managed to reach a point at which I learned to truly appreciate a crude comedy like some sort of idiot connoisseur.  I've become that person who suddenly believes, like a 14-year old boy, that certain films must be branded with an 'R' by the MPAA to be any good at all.  This may sound juvenile, and yes, I'm well aware that comedy can be derived from any number of sources more innocuous than gratuitous sexual content, explicit language, drug use, and violence, but certain comedies don't feel genuine without the risk factor.  Crude comedies and black comedies, the kinds that pull their subjects from the dark pits of human suffering and certain deadly sins, should push at their confines without worrying about catering to someone's definition of what's appropriate.  Sometimes this may lead to failure (I'm looking at you, Hangover II), but when 'going there' pays off, it pays off big.  All of that was just lead in, but the point is that I've really grown to appreciate the fairly mindless genre of cathartic, bad behavior adult comedies.  Luckily for me, this summer is positively loaded with them.  Bad Teacher made the grade a couple weeks back, and now we have yet another movie primed for an 'unrated' DVD edition (and with a title just as descriptive): Horrible Bosses. 
Are the titular bosses actually horrible?  Oh yes, oh yes.  Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, and Charlie Day (breaking out of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia) star as a trio of friends whose lives are slowly being dismantled by the infuriating hierarchy of their work environments.  Bateman's boss (Kevin Spacey) is a megalomaniacal sociopath who giddily plays mind games with his employees, harbors a deep distrust for his wife, and absorbs further power like a sponge.  Sudeikis is trapped with a coke addled lunatic (Colin Farrell with a comb over) hellbent on dumping chemicals into the water supply and firing everyone whose appearance displeases him.  Charlie Day?  He's stuck in a very entertaining bit of intense, crazy, sexual harassment and blackmailing at the hands of Jennifer Aniston as we have never seen her before.  Each situation is nightmarishly exaggerated to win our consent for the dastardly deeds these characters decide to undertake, and it works.  With the exception of one, it was easy to believe that murder in these cases would indeed qualify as a "justifiable homicide."  Of course, an apt title isn't a sole qualifier for a successful film, and an ensemble cast studded with stars big and small can be tricky to manage.  In some ways, it's amazing that Horrible Bosses works at all.  The numbers just aren't on its side, and, like Bad Teacher, it would be all too easy to pick apart the plot problems, logic issues, and stereotypes we've seen time and again. 

Nearly everything in Horrible Bosses is playing according to a formula.  The band has been assembled in a manner similar to the same old Hangover wolf pack: ladies man, semi-square, and goofy, the bosses are impossible caricatures and archetypes.  Many of the jokes stem from expected politically incorrect topics or seem to be cut-ups of other lines from other movies.  This may be something of a spoiler alert, but the other problem is that for a premise that feels exclusive to a black comedy...this movie just isn't dark enough.  It does a fair amount of squandering, wimping out, and sacrificing to the feel good gods.  Mathematically: Horrible Bosses shouldn't work.  According to the rules established by my rules for crude comedy, it sort of fails.  It should be just another in a long line of forgettable comedies that are only passably funny.  Amazingly, the pleasant surprise here is that all the inconsistencies come together to make a much stronger whole.  The film may be holding on by wires, but it's never anything short of entertaining.  Just as which that aforementioned Cameron Diaz vehicle, it seems there's no one else to thank for this but the cast.
Alright, so catharsis and schadenfreude may also have something to do with the successes in Horrible Bosses.  Where Office Space captured the tedium of the 9 to 5 routine and upended our submission to bureaucracy, this film goes out of its way to depict situations so vile that anyone short of a Dov Charney victim will be able to watch, laugh, and take comfort in the fact that their life just ain't so bad.  This is cheap and cheerful sadism, kids, and Bateman, Sudeikis, and Day make good punching bags.  They're each committed enough to their roles, and while Bateman plays just another version of the same old level-headed straight-man he's had mastered since Arrested Development, he's exactly what we need to round out the bizarre smarminess of Sudeikis, the motor-mouthed hamster-cute flurry of Day, and the absolute absurdity of the A-list cast of bosses.  Spacey is perfect for his role, of course, but Farrell and Aniston's castings are not quite as obvious.  I'm not much of an Aniston fan, generally, but she commits to her desperately horny dentist role in full.  Seeing her molest Charlie Day over and over, with increasingly new and surprising methods, is impressively hilarious, and proof that she actually does possess some amount of comedic savvy.  It should be mentioned, also, that Jamie Foxx makes a golden appearance as "murder consultant" Motherf*cker Jones, a fun character the boys meet up with at a bar in the wrong part of town.  So, does Horrible Bosses pay off?  Not big, but yes.  You'll laugh, and you will see things that you haven't quite seen before.  While it's true there's nothing particularly slick or smart about the film, it's full of little moments that make it worth watching.  Don't think of it as a cerebral pleasure, just consider it something to feed those monsters from your id.

1 comment:

  1. I thought this was pretty funny. Bateman, Day and Sudeikis had really great chemistry and Aniston, Spacey, and Farrell were all pretty evil and villainous as the bosses.. I did wish it would have gotten a bit darker at times but overall, pretty good I thought. Good Review! Check out mine when you can!


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