Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Horrible Bosses Movie Review

I thought for sure while watching Horrible Bosses that Charlie Day was the next Zach Galifianakis – a little-known actor who lands a breakthrough role in a smart comedy, stealing just about every scene. Then I learn he has starred in “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” for six seasons and “Third Watch” before that. Okay, so I’ve been living out of the country for a long time and I’d never heard of the guy. But man is he fantastic as a wiry, fast-talking, high-pitched, manic dental assistant with a boss he hates.

He plays Dale and his horrible boss (though his friends tend to disagree with him) is Julia (Jennifer Aniston, unrecognizable to me in her first scene), who has a penchant for sexually harassing and occasionally assaulting him at work. Julia has the inexplicable hots for him and will stop at nothing to get him into bed. I suppose she gets pleasure from making him feel terribly uncomfortable and gets high off the power trip. Dale’s problem with this is that he’s engaged and he loves his fiancée and believes in fidelity. Julia’s methods become more obvious and cruder as the days march on.

Dale’s two closest friends are Nick (Jason Bateman, continuing his wonderful career resurrection) and Kurt (Jason Sudeikis). Nick hates his boss too. That would be David Harken, the man who has hinted that Nick is in line for a big promotion and then berates him for showing up two minutes late to work and tricks him into drinking a full glass of Scotch at 8:15 in the morning. Kevin Spacey is retreading familiar ground in the role of David, having already played a horrible boss in 1995’s Swimming with Sharks. It’s a juicy part and Spacey eats it up without phoning it in like he’s done far too many times since winning his second Oscar more than a decade ago.

Kurt tells us at the beginning how much he loves his job and his boss. He’s an accountant for a factory run by the fair-minded and kindly Jack Pellitt (Donald Sutherland), who treats Kurt like a son and plans for him to take over the business one day. Unfortunately Jack succumbs to a heart attack, leaving his idiot coke-head son Bobby (Colin Farrell, sporting an unattractive beard and combover) to run the place.

The plot kicks off when the three talk nonchalantly about killing their bosses. One thing leads to another and before you know it they’re traipsing into a bar in the seediest part of town, approaching random black men in search of a hit man or at least some advice on how to get away with murder. Here’s where Jamie Foxx makes an amusing appearance as someone with a pretty hilarious name and a penchant for dramatic facial expressions. Ultimately Dale, Kurt and Nick decide to do the deed Strangers on a Train style. That is, they’ll kill each others’ bosses.

I’ll leave it to you to see how the plot plays out because the thing that drew me in was the camaraderie between the three friends and the fast and loose manner of speaking they have with each other. Due credit to screenwriters John Francis Daley, Jonathan M. Goldstein, and Michael Markowitz (also with a story credit) who supplied the actors with some hilarious dialogue, but the style of the three stars (Bateman, Day and Sudeikis) comes across as improvisational at times. It’s clear that director Seth Gordon (whose only previous feature film was the dreadfully received Four Christmases) made the wise decision to give these three guys the freedom to have fun on set.

Of course the juiciest roles in this kind of story are the bosses without question. And Spacey, Farrell and Aniston do a marvelous job eating it up and relishing the chance to be smarmy, slimy, creepy and frankly…horrible. Aniston reveals a side of her we haven’t really seen before, letting loose with some language that wouldn’t have gone over well during her stint on network television. Spacey, as I said before, has treaded this ground before, but that doesn’t mean he plays it like old hat. On the contrary, I can’t remember the last time I was so taken in by a performance of his. And Farrell is just great. He completely inhabits his roles and Bobby is no exception.

This is one of those Hollywood comedies that actually gets the elements to come together in the right order. It’s not purely scatological, it’s not mean-spirited for its own sake. Admittedly it took some time to draw me in, but once there I found it to be at time relentless in its hilarity and a beautiful surprise on the level of The Hangover or American Pie.

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