Thursday, July 28, 2011

Horrible Bosses

Spoiler alert-o-meter: Minor spoilers ahead. Nothing to worry about. 

Note: This review (like the movie) has been rated

Have you ever hated a boss so much you wanted to kill him or her? Did you watch Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train (or DeVito’s Throw Mamma From the Train) and think, Yep, that’s for me? Then you’re probably in prison, where you may still have the chance to watch Horrible Bosses streaming on your cellmate’s laptop. You’ll see other hapless dopes scrambling to figure out a way to make their work lives better, or at least tolerable, by killing their respective bosses.

There’s Nick (Jason Bateman), who’s condescending asshole of a boss (Kevin Spacey, dialing it down just a scoche) has been making him work crazy hours for years by dangling the carrot of a promotion to VP of Sales.

Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) has a boss at a distribution warehouse who’s a clueless asshole (played with gleeful abandon by an unleashed Colin Farrell) who is in line to inherit the company business from his nice guy dad (Donald Sutherland). When Dad Sutherland kicks from a heart attack, Kurt’s fate as Colin’s whipping boy is sealed.

Dale (Charlie Day) is a dental hygienist whose boss, an oversexed cougar dentist (Jennifer Aniston), sexually harasses him. That last one, you’re thinking: Oh, that’s not so bad, to be harassed by Ms. Aniston. And that’s what Dale’s friends say. But all Dale wants out of life is to be a husband. He’s engaged to a super nice girl, and this cougar dentist is threatening his dream. Oh, and he’s a registered sex offender (arrested for public urination in a park – at night. Can that happen?), so he’s afraid if he loses this job he won’t find another.

Well, yes, finding another job for anyone can be tough. But not impossible. Why these average dudes don’t even consider such an option is never broached. Okay, suspend your disbelief starting…now! What do you do when you want to kill your collective bosses? Hire a hit man. The hapless boys set their GPS to the bad part of town (Can you do that?) and they end up in a shady bar where they meet one Motherfucker Jones.

Jamie Foxx plays Motherfucker. He charges the boys five grand. Instead of agreeing to kill the bosses, he acts as their murder consultant and suggests that they trade murders. Each kills the other’s boss. Switcheroo. Strangers on a Train. Not a bad idea, the boys think. So much for their five large. It’s fun to see little Charlie Day say things like, “I thought we were hiring you to kill our bosses, Motherfucker.”

From here the movie takes off, as much as this middle of the road comedy can. The boys stake out their bosses' houses to find out information they can use in their dastardly plans. For example, in Colin Farrell’s house they find a stash of cocaine. They discover that Kevin Spacey is allergic to peanuts when Dale resuscitates him after he succumbs to an allergic reaction – saving a life was just more fun then letting him die. And for Ms. Aniston – well, what you see is what you get. She’s nothing more than a sexpot who likes to seduce apparently any random male who happens by her apartment, including Kurt.

These scenes take on a manic energy that carries us through to the ending. Much of the humor comes from seeing these heretofore normal guys thrust into one totally absurd situation after another. Part of the entertainment value is watching how this action plays out. Do they really kill the bosses? And if not, how do they resolve these conflicts? So I won’t divulge too much more here. Except to say that I was pleasantly surprised to see how it all went down.

Like I say, each character confronts his situation a little differently. Nick is the straightest of the bunch, and while he finds himself doing things he probably never imagined (snooping around his boss’s house, witnessing a murder, inadvertently snorting cocaine) he keeps a cool if dumbfounded head. Jason Bateman is often the more low-key cog in any movie he’s in. He perfected this style early on during his stint on the career resuscitator, Arrested Development. Here I would like to have seen him cut loose a bit more. But maybe he was saving his energy for Change Up, his second movie of the summer, which looks equally manic, or more so.

Jason Sudeikis plays a nice, genial guy who gets along with all his co-workers and actually enjoys his job (aside from his boss). Unfortunately he does nothing with this set up and ends up playing Kurt as a single doofus on the make (he’s a ladies man. Go figure. I don’t see it myself.) and much of the last part of the movie he plays it like an extended SNL skit. 

Charlie Day is the one to watch. His voice mixes a high and low register at once, meeting in the middle with a gravelly scrape. Like he just finished a pack of filterless Camels or he’s been shouting most his life. He’s the most low-key of the bunch, just a nice guy who wants things to stay status quo. He turns up the energy throughout, and while exhausting to watch, he keeps things rolling. If it weren’t for his Dale, these guys would probably still be working for the same bosses by the end of the movie. That they don’t is a testament to good old-fashioned American doofusity and avarice.

Horrible Bosses is served best in a crowded theater. Yes, I was carried away watching it as a diverting piece of entertainment. It was a hot night in Lowell, and the Showcase was packed. The audience enjoyed it. The actors also seem like they’re enjoying it. There’s probably a great blooper reel, if the outtakes shown over the credits are any indication. Overall, if I knew what I was in for I might have waited for the DVD/Streaming/On Demand/Blu Ray release.


Theater location: Lowell Showcase, Tuesday, July 19th, 7:50 pm. Price: 6.00. Viewed solo. Snack: apple, chopped and bagged.

Coming Attractions:

30 Minutes or Less. A hapless kid and his stupid buddy are forced to hold up a bank for the real bank robbers, who are even more stupid and hapless. It's a comedy! With Jesse Eisenberg, Aziz Ansari, and Fred Ward. From the director of Zombieland.

Final Destination 5 (Or, Can I have just one more destination?). Sorry producers of Final Destination 5, I will never see your movie. You can stop sending me free passes (doesn't happen) or invitations to your Hollywood mansions to see a special screening (would never happen). Seeing a movie about a group of kids who cheat death, only to find out that they have to die systematically anyway unless they murder some random person first is just not my idea of a fun night at the movies. Unless it's in 3-D! It's not, is it?

Footloose. Remake. No improvement over the original here.

Fright Night. Remake. Has potential.

Change Up. Ryan Reynolds is a single guy popular with the ladies, but tired of his lifestyle. Jason Bateman is a married guy with a couple kids, also tired of his lifestyle. After pissing in a magic fountain (seriously!) the two switch lives. It's an R-rated Freaky Friday rip off. But, this one has potential.

Crazy Stupid Love. Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Kevin Bacon, Julianne Moore. A young couple and an older couple going through dramedy romantic escapades, while Ryan, a player, shows Steve, a shy, awkward dude, the ropes to picking up women. At least that's what I think happens. Along with some other stuff.


Robin said...

Dell -- this is a clever, entertaining review! I enjoyed your take on thsee three floundering men looking to finish off their horrible bosses. Also, I learned a new word (doofusity). We're off to see the new Harry Potter tonight.

Dell Smith said...

Harry Potter! I await your review. Ahem. From anyone. Anyone! Whoever wants to write it.

Yes, doofusity. I hope it becomes a meme.

Robin said...

Hi Dell - Yes, I will work on a Harry Potter review!

Cynthia Sherrick said...

I won't be seeing Harry Potter anytime soon. I haven't seen the last four movies, but I'm sure for HP fans it won't disappoint. ;)

And as always your reviews are a pleasure to read no matter what film you have viewed for us.
I might catch this one on DVD in a few months.

Dell Smith said...

Thanks Robin! I'll need an extra review in August. Thanks Cindy. I watch these movies so you don't have to!

Cynthia Sherrick said...

Thanks, Dell. :)

After reading my comment about Harry Potter, I realized I sounded like it was the worst movie ever and I wouldn't see it -- not so.

I just haven't seen too many movies lately and that one wasn't on the top of my list. However, I actually might go see it. :)

Liz's Mom said...

I won't lie to you, I will never see most of the movies you review, but I love your reviews. I laugh out loud at the clever snark, the snide, the disingenuousity,( I made that up, two can play at this game,) the cool.

Dell Smith said...

Liz's Mom: This sounds like a challenge. I will try to see more movies that elicit your thumbs up. Although there aren't that many quality movies getting made any more. I'll have to dig into the archives and review some classics.