2.5 out of 4 stars
Starring: Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, Charlie Day and Kevin Spacey.
We’ve all had issues with the people who give us our paychecks. For some, the most part intense part of the workday might be having an argument with one of the higher-ups. For others, such as the one of the leads of the comedy “Horrible Bosses,” daydreaming about dragging his supervisor across the office by his necktie and throwing him out the window is what keeps hope alive.
For friends Nick, Kurt and Dale (Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, Charlie Day), work wouldn’t be so bad if they didn’t each have to answer to their own personal antichrist. Nick’s sleazy corporate boss (Kevin Spacey) has been cruelly dangling a promotion over his head for years, while Dale, a dental assistant, has dealt with constant sexual harassment from the dentist (Jennifer Aniston) who employs him. Likewise, Kurt’s new boss (Colin Farrell) has just been handed the reins of the company upon the death of his father (Donald Sutherland) and plans to bleed it dry in order to feed his addictions to drugs and prostitutes.
Fed up with their situations, none of the three of them can afford to quit, and what starts as a joke soon sounds like a sensible alternative when they decide to take each of their bosses out of the picture permanently. The only question: Are any of them bright enough to literally get away with murder?
Bateman is getting pretty good at playing the working stiff by now, revisiting his “Arrested Development” character as someone who endures day after day of thankless work for the sake of the light at the end of the tunnel. Oh, Nick, you pitiful fool.
Sudeikis is fun as Kurt, who first broaches the topic of doing away with the nuisances in the trio’s lives, though most of his contributions to the plan are less than helpful, rarely going beyond the realm of a sarcastic wisecrack or a tasteless prank. Day is the best of the bunch as dim bulb Dale, who seems to think the best thing to do when you’re staking out somebody you’re supposed to kill is to watch “The Notebook” on a portable DVD player.
As for the bosses, it’s hard to fathom a worse group of people to have power over your life.
Spacey, getting back into his nastiness stride from “Glengarry Glen Ross” and “Swimming with Sharks,” is typically deplorable as Nick’s boss, Harken, who readily manipulates his hardest worker into thinking he has a new title on the horizon only to snatch it back when it suits him. But, those who are new to the game score just as highly, with Farrell looking hilarious with a paunch and a horrendous comb-over as Bobby, a pathetic, cocaine-loving man-child who could only get a job, let alone a title, if he was born into it.
Most surprising is Aniston as Julia, whose dirty mind and even filthier mouth are pretty far from that of the girl we grew to love on “Friends.” If going to the dentist made you nervous before, then sitting in her chair should send you into a state of panic knowing the kinds of things she does to her patients and poor Dale.
After all, who could imagine a worse work situation than having a gorgeous woman pawing at you all day long?
Helping our hapless heroes in their plot to rid the world of such mean-spirited folks is Jamie Foxx as an ex-convict who serves as a “murder consultant,” whose only useful piece of advice is that the best way not to get caught is for each of them to criss-cross and kill one another’s boss rather than their own, hence leaving no motive when the cops come to call.
Shades of “Strangers on a Train” loom in the background, but the general feeling here is closer to “9 to 5” or “Office Space,” since the most our characters seem to be able to do is complain about not getting ahead thanks to the jerk who’s in charge. This may make the situation more down-to-earth, but before long, Nick’s kvetching, Kurt’s quips and Dale’s bumbling gets a little too much to take.
Sure, it’s one thing to say that you want to kill your boss and another thing entirely to actually do it, but with all the preparation that goes into their plan, you’d think these three might make some progress. Their ineptitude makes for some great guffaws, but the desire for comeuppance against the people who are so in need of it — especially Spacey’s character — outweighs everything else.
“Horrible Bosses” may not go as far as it should, but it’s a nice little bit of wish fulfillment for everybody who wants somebody vindictive out of the way. If you’re planning to embark on the same plot, just remember a couple things: One, watching “Law & Order” can help you when you’re dealing with police interrogation, and two, the phrase “wet work” is not an Internet code for “hit man.”
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