If nothing else, it looks like this summer is pretty much owned by the R-rated comedy. Of course, THE HANGOVER PART II is bringing in money hand over fist, but BRIDESMAIDS and BAD TEACHER seem to be doing very well, and they're good films to boot. With the way film budgets are skyrocketing, I'd be very surprised if this doesn't become a trend - studios leaning towards more comedic fare that's cheaper to make as opposed to the giant superhero robot explosion movie. They make a profit, and audiences love them, and they have a great shelf life.
It's too early to tell what kind of shelf life Seth Gordon's HORRIBLE BOSSES will have, but there's some explosively funny moments in it that come from the characters and the situations, and audiences will identify with it. Three friends, Nick (Jason Bateman), Kurt (Jason Sudeikis), and Dale (Charlie Day) suffer under intolerable bosses at their jobs (played by Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell, and Jennifer Aniston, respectively). With the help of murder consultant "Motherfucker" Jones (Jamie Foxx), they decide to kill each other's bosses, but as things tend to happen in movies (and sitcoms) like this, there are complications.
First, the good news - the three leads have a terrific chemistry together and it's very enjoyable watching them riff off each other onscreen. Bateman knows how to play these types of roles very well - his character reacts to things in a similar way to ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT's Michael Bluth and he makes the funny situations even funnier. Sudeikis plays Kurt as a good-hearted man with a boner - he's happy to work at a company that helps the environment but has no moral quandries about sleeping with other men's wives. And Charlie Day probably has the hardest job in the film, trying to convince the audience that he'd much rather be loyal to his fiancee than sleep with Jennfier Aniston's slutty dentist character. And as Nick and Kurt observe in the film, Dale's problem doesn't seem like much to them, in comparison with Nick's flat-out evil boss (Kevin Spacey) and Kurt's money-mooching cokehead supervisor (Colin Farrell). But Day is pretty funny here, fighting off Aniston's advances and trying to keep his own libido under control. Dale is a good man and trying to do the right thing, but circumstances keep putting in in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Jamie Foxx steals the movie in his every scene, and he plays with the characters' (and the audience's as well) assumptions. Just hearing Bateman say Foxx's name in the film made me giggle - he's so damn earnest when he says it. Spacey can play this role in his sleep. It's practically a riff on every villainous role he's played in his career. Colin Farrell transforms himself into a complete asshole - Sudeikis calls Farrell's apartment "douchebag central" - and he's really funny as well. But I think Jennifer Aniston probably comes off the best of all the bosses here. She's funny, kind of scary, and damn attractive; she uses it to her advantage, and Dale is pretty much helpless against her. I've got no complaints about any of the actors. Everyone acquits themselves well and much of the humor of the film is seeing these guys get into crazy situations and trying to extricate themselves from them.
What's not so good? The movie pulls punches. You can feel where the movie should have gone meaner and rougher with the characters and then pulls back. The resolution is a little too pat when it should have gone more raw. For its faults, THE HANGOVER PART II goes to some fairly dark places for its comedy, and HORRIBLE BOSSES should have taken a page out of that playbook. It's a rough world out there in the job market. The last comedy to really touch on this with any success was OFFICE SPACE, and I wanted more of that from HORRIBLE BOSSES, especially since it's such a different world economically since OFFICE SPACE was released. I would have liked BOSSES to have gone into that territory more. Instead of going to those places, HORRIBLE BOSSES shies away, and what could have been a seriously classic comedy on our current problems becomes something less. There's comedy in true desperation and this film can't seem to mine that as well as it could have.
I laughed a lot at HORRIBLE BOSSES, and I think most audiences will enjoy it. It's a lot of fun. It could have been more than just fun, however, and could have reached the level of films like OFFICE SPACE, or IDIOCRACY, or the first HANGOVER. It can't quite get there, but the film is still very enjoyable for all that, and if this trend of R-rated comedies continues soon a film will come along that is willing to go to places that HORRIBLE BOSSES didn't. Until then, this will do fine.