Horrible Bosses is the story of three friends, each finding themselves in less than ideal occupational predicaments.
Nick Hendricks, (Jason Bateman), is the overworked employee that has dedicated his days, many of which had extended into night and weekend. He is subjected on an almost scheduled basis, to psychological abuse. He’s missed out on many important events, including his grandmother’s passing, all because of work. He’s put up with the situation for the promise of promotion; a vindication for what he’s been forced to deal with. Now he finds out there will not be a promotion. He discusses his dissatisfaction with his boss, only to be threatened and demoralized once more.
Dale Arbus, (Charlie Day), is the unlikely victim of workplace sexual harassment. He is happily involved with his fiancée and is as uncomfortable as one could be under such circumstances. He consistently refuses each advance, only to see his fiancée drawn into the mix. When he refuses yet another time, his boss threatens him, indicating she would inform his fiancée that they had sex. An enraged Dale states he’d deny it; only to find out she has compromising photographs of him, which she took when he was unconscious during a dental procedure. To compound his situation he has yet another flag about him, one that could prevent other employers from hiring him.
Kurt Buckman, (Jason Sudeikis), is next in line to take over the reigns of the company he works for. His boss (Donald Sutherland) is one of his closest friends; he’s like family to Kurt. All seems great for him, until fate unleashes a twist of its own. His boss has a heart attack and the company is turned over to the hands of his bosses’ son. Kurt doesn’t like Bobby but figures he’ll make do. This philosophy unravels as he finds out Bobby’s true intentions, of squeezing the company dry and using it as his own personal ATM, with no concern for the lives that shall be turned in his ravenous wake.
Three friends, mired by their individual circumstances, meet for drinks. Each complaining how bad their scenarios seem. The commonality of their situations, the villain in each of their oppressive worlds, is their bosses. It is at this moment, in a beer-driven brainstorming session, the trio designs a primitive blueprint for the reversal of their fortunes; a plan to which they would all eventually agree upon. They decide their horrible bosses have to die.
From this point forward we see a bumbling and a stumbling, a botched effort after crazy mistake, as they plan and attempt to devise plans of attack, to bring their plan to fruition. These men may be frustrated and at wits end, they may have made the culpable decision to engage in such a desperate act as murder, but these three friends are not killers. In fact, the trio may be the worst criminals around. From using stereotype and racism as their initial guide, by Dale saving one of the intended targets lives, where Nick is pursued by the police when he runs a red light and when Kurt’s libido takes him off the murderous path, we find out these guys are completely clueless when it comes to criminal activity, let alone pulling off three murders.
The film is loaded with blunders and funny moments, playing with and exposing the weaknesses and nuances of the various characters in the story. There’s a lot of adult humor, but there’s also subtle comedic moments, made at the expense of the current economic environment, referencing the outsourcing of jobs and exaggerating the lowest points a man’s desperation can take him to. There’s a ton of subtle humor scattered throughout the film that are really funny if you catch them, but some of them you’ll miss, only to get the punch-line a few hours after you’ve left the theater.
The movie works because of three different dynamics. The first being it’s a comedy based on something that could actually occur, no matter where you’re from or who you are. This type of far-fetched plan, hatched upon a drunken night spent with friends, is universal in its appeal. After all, who hasn’t given passing consideration of how their life would be different if their bosses weren’t apart of it?
The second dynamic is the way the script refrained from glorifying the three friends’ murderous conspiracy. Just in the way the notion came about, over drinking, when your inhibitions are at weakened states, shows that this type of “plan” should never be something realistically considered. The next key centers upon the incompetence of the heroes in their attempts to complete the murders. The writers do a really nice job with the script on multiple levels, but for this particular consideration, they really tie into the audience’s moral side. The audience can understand the motives, even appreciate the decision to go forward with the idea, but eventually we find ourselves in agreement, that this type of activity isn’t in us, as it isn’t in the heroes either, nor should it be.
The characterization is the final dynamic that makes the film work so well. The evil bosses are caricatures that combine the worst possible qualities, thus making their potential demise less threatening to the ethical within the audience. However, each villain is layered in ways that make them not as evil, elements that deepen their personas.
Kevin Spacey’s character, Dave Harken, is by far the worst of the three horrible bosses, yet he has a genuine anxiety that is developed from his unfaithful wife. One could easily argue that it’s probably more likely that his attitude brought upon the unfaithfulness but nevertheless he’s experiencing a genuine problem that is easily relatable to the majority of moviegoers.
Jennifer Anniston’s role, Dr. Julia Harris, D.D.S, is the least horrible of the bosses, which doesn’t condone her actions, but she deals with addiction, like so many others in the world. While some people are addicted to gambling, alcohol or cigarettes, her addiction is sex.
Colin Farrell’s character, Bobby Pelitt is a loathsome person and if it weren’t for a brief interaction with his father early in the film, we’d come away feeling he’s completely reprehensible. We still feel this way, yet we can sympathize for a man who had bigger and better things planned for his life, only to not see them realized. We can understand the internal agony that surrounds him; in reference to someone that feels another person has taken his place as a Son in the eyes of his own father.
I recommend this film for the above stated reasons, but also because of the acting. Acting, not only in the sense of believability, but for being able to see some actors do what they do best, while getting to see others excel at something they aren’t traditionally known for.
Colin Farrell and Jennifer Aniston are great in their roles, and while they may very well have done similar roles in the past I can’t remember Farrell in this specific role nor can I recall Anniston playing a morality depraved sexual deviant.
Kevin Spacey is absolutely brilliant. His portrayal of Dave Harken is about as good as I could have wished for in the most Horrible of the Horrible Bosses.
Sudeikis plays this type of character in the majority of his films and always does a nice job with it. Charlie Day also does a good job as the nervous, anxious type that seems to be the guy that says the wrong thing at the wrong time. The cocaine-induced scenes are his best by far. It’s Bateman though who continuous his march upwards in the comedic world. The way he plays the quiet, straight-man type gets better with each film I see him in. This type of role is one that he truly excels at.
Horrible Bosses is not a roll on the floor, laugh a minute comedy, but it’s an above average one that uses a combination of idiocy, farce and subtle humor to deliver a good laugh here and there, which makes for a good time had at the movies, preferably with a friend or two.