HORRIBLE BOSSES (MA)
Director: Seth Gordon
Stars: Jason Bateman, Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston, Colin Farrell
Screening: general release
THIS comedy is filthy, foul-mouthed and frequently very funny in a Bridesmaids and The Hangover kind of way.
It’s not as good as either of those adults-only romps and it doesn’t bother much with the good intentions that made the raunch-com hits inherently sweet under all the spice.
But Horrible Bosses does have Kevin Spacey in uber-creep mode and Jennifer Aniston working blue.
Jason Bateman, Hall Pass’s Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day (from Going The Distance) play drinking buddies Nick, Kurt and Dale, who are fed up with being bullied, harassed, used and abused by their respective bosses.
So, instead of complaining to H.R. or quitting their jobs, the trio commiserate in boozy gripe sessions which turn to vigilante fantasies which in turn become a half-baked plot to terminate their obnoxious bosses, permanently.
“Justifiable homicide – that’s a thing, right?” Kurt asks early on.
Of course these blokes are too normal, too nice and way too inept to be breaking and entering or interviewing prospective hit-men.
They’re just saps driven to payback by sheer desperation. Which makes them sufficiently endearing when things inevitably go awry.
Their workplace tormentors are suitably horrid.
Horrible boss No.1: Kevin Spacey, a smug and sadistic psychopath CEO who tells lackey Nick (Bateman) to his face: “I own you”.
Horrible boss No.2: Colin Farrell, a hostile cokehead with a greasy comb-over who orders underling Kurt (Sudeikis) to trim the fat. That is, fire the overweight workers “because they make me sad to look at them”.
Horrible boss No.3: Jennifer Aniston, a crazily oversexed, nymphomaniac dentist who gropes male patients when they are under anaesthetic and sexually harasses happily engaged dental hygienist Dale (Day).
Poor Dale’s tales of his hot boss’s sexual advances and hands-on debriefings don’t arouse much in the way of sympathy from his buddies.
But the lads agree to help each other stick it to the man. Which is when the mayhem begins.
Spacey, as the smarmy corporate shark, is fabulously despicable.
Farrell, in the sort of bald and paunchy makeup that transformed Tom Cruise in Tropic Thunder, is sadly underused.
Aniston, playing against her sitcom sweetheart type, vamps it up gamely as the sexually aggressive predator.
We’re used to seeing the actress do more cute than cunning, so it’s a nice surprise to have her saying rude things, doing bad things and strutting about nearly naked under her little white (unbuttoned) dentist’s coat.
Yes, of course, her character is wholly improbable and a shameless adolescent male fantasy but that doesn’t make her any less hilarious.
Jamie Foxx chips in an amusing bit part as the shady ex-con our hapless trio turn to for murder advice (his name can’t be printed in this family newspaper but it makes a funny running gag).
There are some decent laugh-out-loud moments in Horrible Bosses, though the verbal humour is more about free-flowing riffs than set-piece punchlines.
The hilarity is allowed to swerve off course, for example, when the lads pause from their panicking to bicker over who is the most likely to be raped, or be considered the most rape-worthy, when they are caught and jailed.
Likewise, when they accidentally spill a box of cocaine on the carpet during a “recon” mission into Farrell’s pad, their panic becomes increasingly manic as they unwittingly inhale the drug.
Out-takes through the final credits suggest plenty of fun was had by all.
And yet for all the preposterous hilarity, Horrible Bosses never cuts as deep as a recession-age comedy could have (it’s made clear, but only jokingly, that our trio are trapped in their jobs because there aren’t that many out there).
The film definitely has the makings of something dark and disquieting, a vicious revenge fantasy about wage slaves who strike back.
Instead we get rude and obnoxious fun that aims low and hits the spot as easy wish-fulfilment for nine-to-fivers.