Three strong comedic actors make Horrible Bosses a good time—even if it is a rip-off of the 1980 comedy 9 to 5.
For those of you who don't remember 9 to 5, it starred Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton and Jane Fonda as three women being harassed by a terrible boss (Dabney Coleman). They give serious thought to killing him, only to wind up kidnapping him and attaching him to a garage-door opener.
In Horrible Bosses, we get three men (Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day) having murderous thoughts about each of their bosses, so the bad-boss factor is tripled, and the gender of the protagonists is switched—but the basic premise is the same.
However, the bosses in this film make Dabney Coleman's acerbic executive look like Oprah.
For many years, Nick (Bateman) has been kissing the ass of boss Dave (a nasty Kevin Spacey, echoing his shitty-boss performance in Swimming With Sharks). Nick thinks he's on the way to a promotion, but he's got a surprise coming. Kurt (Sudeikis) loves his boss (Donald Sutherland), but circumstances lead to the boss' son taking over—and that's not a good thing, because the son is a coked-up, cruel man named Bobby (a hilarious Colin Farrell, with a comb-over similar to the one Bill Murray sported in Kingpin).
Dale (Day, an expert scene-stealer) is having a slightly different problem: He's a dental assistant to Julia (a sinister Jennifer Aniston), who seriously wants his penis. She spends the day making comments about his penis, spraying his penis with water, and even playing with his penis while he's under sedation for dental procedures. While Nick and Dave fail to see the problem with a hot boss wanting your dick, Day is engaged and finds the whole situation rather uncomfortable.
Thoughts eventually turn to hiring a killer, and the three find themselves in the company of sleazy barfly Dean "Motherfucker" Jones (Jamie Foxx). Dean's nickname leads to some very funny, straight-faced conversations when the three address him formally. Dean prefers "MF" to his real name, because Dean Jones was a famed '70s Disney actor, and that doesn't amount to toughness and respect in a scary neighborhood.
While the three workplace victims and their three bosses are all funny, Bateman is my favorite. His straight-faced, deadpan reactions (used to full effect during his Arrested Development days) are top-notch and never off the mark. There's something very funny about his debate with Sudeikis about who would get raped more often if they went to prison.
Day is in hyper-weirdo mode; I wouldn't be surprised to hear Zach Galifianakis turned down the role. Day has a nice gift for panicky, sweat-on-the-brow humor, which is especially helpful when his character accidentally inhales a cloud of cocaine. Sudeikis, who was a good comic stooge in Hall Pass, essentially repeats that feat here. He's an excellent smart-ass.
Of the bosses, Farrell is the funniest and most disgusting. His Bobby—obsessed with martial arts and angry at handicapped employees for wheeling around in their secret chairs—is a hilarious abomination. Aniston, who usually plays nice people, gets a chance to play against type, a chance she embraces with much aplomb. Spacey has done the bad-boss act before, and he's got it down.
Couple this one with Bridesmaids, and you have two decent R-rated comedies to go with misfires like The Hangover Part II and Bad Teacher. I'm hoping this August's The Change-Up (also starring Bateman) can keep the R-rated laughs coming. If the screamingly funny preview is any indicator, Bateman will wind up having himself a most excellent summer.