Horrible Bosses: directed Seth Gordon; written by Michael Markowitz, John Francis Bailey and Jonathan Goldstein
Am I the only one who flashed back to 9 to 5 at the concept of Horrible Bosses. Sure, it’s a trio of women – the machinations of terrible bosses and a stressful work environment presents a fine playing field for comedy. Now, with a name like Horrible Bosses I wasn’t expecting Seth Gordon’s comedic romp to be some sort of cathartic experience for anyone who’s ever experience working for an atrocious boss. It essentially sets itself up to be as literal as possible. And it’s not that this is the film’s fundamental problem, but it doesn’t help that the entire film could be relegated to a few lines. Three average Joes are suffering from their titular horrible bosses – the psycho, the man-eater and the tool and after being pushed to the edges of their sanity they decide that the only way to survive is to kill those horrible bosses. These men have had enough. In a high-speed chase where one of the characters concurrently has the most inane phone-sex scene with a seemingly unhinged woman that’s precisely what I was thinking...
Clearly, I’m in a bit of a funk movie-wise. 2011 just hasn’t been working out for me, and watching Horrible Bosses I couldn’t help thinking when it was going to end. I feel that in some way screenwriters have missed the buss and taking everything at face value: a series of jokes does not a humorous atmosphere make and Horrible Bosses has a number of jokes (perfunctorily placed, I might add) that never coalesce to formulate any steady accumulation of legitimate humour. It becomes obvious that the writers are attempting to do some nifty genre shifting early on when you realise that we’re heading to a stranger-on-a-train scenario where the three mix and match to get rid of the others’ boss. And, it’s not that I object to a situation where an unbalanced plan to commit a triple murder has become “comedic”. I suppose that in any situation comedic is as comedic does and as trite a statement as “less is more” is – it’s quite accurate. For Horrible Bosses to make a deliberate impact we’ve got to buy into the reality of these men’s lives being THAT horrible and I don’t. We’re treated to an obligatory snippets of tyranny flatly characterised but the situation is never profound enough to be thought provoking or amusing enough to be truly funny.
For the first third of the film Bateman, Day and Sudeikis manage to retain a fairly good chemistry but as the film gets more ridiculous the characters drift from endearing boorishness to annoying imbecility. In a world where your main characters are plotting murder you’d at least hope that they’re appealing enough to retain our allegiance. Horrible Bosses is one of those multiple number of bromance flicks where average men deal with reassert their bond of brotherhood amidst bouts with the law, outlandish situations and homoerotic situations – and on this front Horrible Bosses delviers on all three counts but with a third act that flounders terribly not only does it fail to deliver on any semblance of its promise, or make sense in the context of its pretend world it also makes it heroes come off as Neanderthals making me wish that they’d all end up dead.
The thing is, Horrible Bosses isn’t completely without salvage – for example, I don’t give it a failing grade. Julie Bowen appears in three scenes and steals the show, probably because she’s the lone characters’ whose inclinations aren’t tritely spelt out for us. Charlie Day’s almost hysterical dental assistant gives the type of performance – deranged and ridiculous at times – which suggests promise of talent with better material. Jennifer Aniston’s one-note seductress is funny on occasion even with a potent lack of any real reasons for her actions and even with a line as fundamentally inane as “She had the crazy fucked out of her.” In the race of truly awful movies there are a slew of others that would trump Horrible Bosses in the way of lewdness, poor acting and just general terribleness. But, that doesn’t mean that I’d acquit it of its faults; I don’t think I should. After all, it’s not murder if it’s justified – right?