25 July 2011


Have you noticed how a lot of what financial analysts might call this summer's big comedies have really bland titles? Bridesmaids? Bad Teacher? And this week, Horrible Bosses enters the arena. Like Bad Teacher, it merely tells you that there will be bosses, and that they are horrible. It's to say nothing of the plot though, which errs closely to Strangers On A Train, name-checked in the film itself.

Nick, Kurt and Dale are three blokes who can't afford to quit their jobs, and yet find their lives gradually being ruined by their heinous employers. Nick's boss is a manipulative sadist, Kurt finds his idyllic employment wrecked by the sudden death of his boss and subsequent ascension of his cokehead son, and Dale is being sexually harrassed by the dentist he assists. Seeing no other way out, the three of them decide to pull off the perfect crime by murdering each other's bosses.

As a "big comedy", the posters for the film haven't exactly pushed its strongest quality. Instead, the poster for Horrible Bosses features Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston and Colin Farrell front and centre, as the titular bosses. They are all, to varying extents, bankable stars, especially as compared to the three leads- Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day, and its their camaraderie that is the film's strongest quality, rather than their enmity with any of their A-list bosses.

As Nick, Kurt and Dale, they work together with something approaching the competence of the Three Stooges. They're just as prone to smacking each other in the head when they make a mistake, and their collective silliness isn't so dense that their characters can't operate together at least on a level that is disharmonious and clumsy. They're daft, but not stupid. Otherwise, this one would be a real chore to watch.

Instead, the three leads make it quite a likeable comedy, particularly Charlie Day. In what I suspect will be a star-making turn for him on the big screen, he's earnest and well-meaning, rather than being a giant naive baby. It's only in this respect that his harassment at the groping hands of Jennifer Aniston could work, cynically designed as it is to get the male audience laughing with the film, rather than putting them out of their comfort zone. Aniston may never have been more sexy than she is here, but it's really beside the point.

In many ways, that shows up how safe Horrible Bosses really is. Colin Farrell, giving a fun performance as the horriblest boss by far, gets the least screentime. There could have been much more made of his character's bizarre drug-addled behaviour, but he largely serves as an after-thought. Kevin Spacey is in OTT mode, which doesn't jar with the tone, but neither does it allow for a lot more than a reprise of Buddy Ackerman. Crucially, as a "big summer comedy", it never spends enough time in the shadows, and so it can't exploit the blackly comic premise to its fullest.

Horrible Bosses seems to leave a lot of comedic gold un-mined, but I laughed enough at the sturdy chemistry between Bateman, Sudeikis and Day that I don't mind its being front and centre. However, I feel it's been very successful in the United States precisely because it plays it so safe. More daring movies than this generally don't do as well at the box office. The generic title tells you even less about the film than you might think, and it feels slightly like it was made from a distance, too tentative to get close to the implicitly electric concept.

Horrible Bosses is now showing in cinemas nationwide.
If you've seen Horrible Bosses, why not share your comments below? The highlight for me? The name of Jame Foxx's character. If you don't know what it is yet, avoid spoilers at all costs- I laughed a lot at that scene.

I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.


The Jester said...

Here ya go MP. http://www.nobadmovies.net/2011/07/horrible-bosses.html to see how an American felt about this comedy.

Mark said...

Enjoyed reading your review, but should nationality come into it? Not sure how you meant that comment...