Movie Review – Horrible Bosses (2011)

by HELEN GEIB

The Three Stooges meet Strangers on a Train.

Nick (Jason Bateman), Kurt (Jason Sudeikis), and Dale (Charlie Day) are old high school buddies. Their career paths have taken very different directions but they still live in the same town and hang out together. Moreover, they each suffer from a particularly horrible boss: Nick sold his soul to corporate monster Harken (Kevin Spacey); Kurt will soon be out of work if the company’s vile new owner Pellitt (Colin Farrell) follows through on his stated intention of wringing every last cent from the business to fuel his drug habit; and poor Dale is the victim of appalling sexual harassment by his dentist boss Julia (Jennifer Aniston). Pushed to the breaking point, the friends make a pact to kill their tormentors.

The best thing about Horrible Bosses is the casting of talented comic actors Bateman, Sudeikis, and Day as the central trio. Bateman stands out for his comic timing with a good line and Day for his character’s extreme but somehow endearing hyperactivity. The actors collectively sell the idea that this trio has been close friends for a lot of years. As by far the least-seen evil boss, Colin Farrell is a hoot in his few appearances.

The next best thing is a set-up every working adult can identify with. Depending on personal inclination, the movie offers a wish fulfillment fantasy, material for schadenfreude, or the perfect opportunity to launch into a “did I ever tell you about that time my boss…” story in post-viewing conversation.

It’s part of the set-up that killing the evil bosses is both justified by their evilness and a desperate measure of last resort. At least, that’s what they tell each other. Putting the moral dimension of the former point aside (as the film does), the set-up founders on the obvious unnecessariness of killing Pellitt to get rid of him. Dale’s situation is improbable to put it kindly, but the movie does take the trouble to establish that both he and, more plausibly, Nick have everything at stake and no other way out. Kurt could just pick up the phone and dial 911 the next time Pellitt starts living it up with cocaine and a few prostitutes in his non-soundproofed office.

It probably sounds strange and beside the point for me to be complaining about a lack of realism in a vulgar summer comedy, but here’s why it matters: the realism, the we can all relate to it-ness, is what gave the comedy its bite. Conceding that acknowledging, to say nothing of delving into, Kurt’s depravity would make the movie much blacker than it has any intention of becoming, Horrible Bosses progressively loses its edge as it drifts deeper into a fantasyland populated by cartoon characters doing cartoonish things.

Strip away the rude, crude, sexual, and loud and you have a movie whose idea of a good joke is a belabored running gag about Americans’ inability to pronounce the name of Indian call center employees.

Compounding my disappointment- honestly, I was laughing too at the start- the treatment of the women characters is tiresome and unpleasant. Putting Dale’s sweet fiancee aside (as the movie does), womankind is represented in the film by the contemptible, raunchy, mostly naked much of the time Julia; Harken’s nymphomaniac trophy wife; and a female colleague of Kurt’s whose sole reason for existence is to provide the punchline to a fat joke.

1 1/2 star

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Possibly Related Posts: (Commentary Track generated)

Review of Hancock

16 responses to “Movie Review – Horrible Bosses (2011)

  1. Pingback: Movie Review – Horrible Bosses (2011) | Commentary Track « Colin Farrell

  2. Richard Winters

    Well now I don’t feel as bad about missing this one. Did the rest of the group have the same reaction? I agree with you, part of what attracts someone to see this movie is the fact that so many people have dealt with bad bosses at one time, or another, but there still needs to be some realism there to give it the bite. Resorting to cartoonish scenario’s as you say it did is a bad idea and I’ve noticed too many of today’s Hollywood comedies are resorting to that simply to make up for their lack of sophistication.

  3. I thought this was hilarious! Nothing fancy but the main trio had great chemistry and the movie moves along briskly. Sure it’s more and more over-the-top but I didn’t mind it as long as laughs were there.

  4. I barely know anything about the film and hadn’t read a single review about it yet; that also means you, Helen. But once I watch it I will read this one review, for possible polarity or agreement. All that I know is that it stars Jason Bateman and Colln Farrell and that it’s supposed to be more of a movie than a film, and the reason for its apparent critical success is that it’s an R rated comedy that doesn’t go for raunch but rather uses the “evil bosses” idea as symbolic as possible. “They’re so evil that they must be killed” I find to be a hilarious idea. But we’ll soon see.

    I’ll comment on this review in the next few days. :O)

    • Richard Winters

      I am going to watch it Monday night at the local theater. I will comment on it as well and we can see what the consensus is. At this point it seems like it may be more of a guys movie as evidenced by the other two commenters.

  5. I thought this was pretty funny. Bateman, Day and Sudeikis had really great chemistry and Aniston, Spacey, and Farrell were all pretty evil and villainous as the bosses.. I did wish it would have gotten a bit darker at times but overall, pretty good I thought. Good Review!

    • Wow… I didn’t even know that Jennifer Aniston was in it. Now do you guys see the power of not ruining films by watching their trailers or reading up about them? :OD

      • Preaching to the choir Nir. You know I only read reviews and watch trailers for movies I don’t want to see. I am impressed you managed to avoid seeing the cast list though.

  6. @Richard: It was polarizing. Not along gender lines, although it is a by guys, for guys movie in a lot of ways; Aniston’s character and costuming especially obviously weren’t created with the female audience in mind. However, lazy writing and flat direction are gender-neutral criticisms.

    @Castor, Nir and Dan: See above reply. ^_^ I’m in the minority camp among my off-line friends and acquaintances too.

  7. lol
    I hear that all around. For every thousand people that enjoyed it, one perosn thought that it was flat, never funny, and boring, albeit containing a good concept.

  8. Without a doubt the best thing about this movie is the chemistry between the trio of conspirators. But I really liked the over the top bosses, very entertaining.

  9. I finally watched the film last night and never felt that it had any realism at all, ever. It was cooky from the get-go and the fact that dumb things, or implausible things, happened in the second half of the film still wasn’t a turn off for me.
    The only reason that I dislike the film is that it made me laugh only twice (once when the three guys attempt to exit a parking lot and almost crash into each other and another time seeing Harken’s reaction to his surprize party); I could count the laughs with one hand.

    There was nothing wrong with the film, thematically or technically, and every happening within it was simply a good concept but it was never funny. I sat with my friend in the theatre, in quiet, and watched a comedy that simply wasn’t funny.

    *sigh*

    • The movie hits the same few jokes over and over (Dale’s a spaz, Kurt’s a horndog, etc., etc.). If you don’t laugh the first time, you’re not likely to laugh the 20th.

      It wasn’t technically incompetent but it was awfully boring to look at. The parking lot scene you mention- a highlight, definitely- was practically the only point of visual interest.

  10. Richard Winters

    The jury is still out guys as I still haven’t seen it. I will watch the early showing tomorrow and see what I think.

  11. Richard Winters

    I saw ‘Horrible Bosses’ today and I would say that Helen’s review of the film is right on target. I thought the humor was excessively crude and unnecessary. The boss characters are over-the-top and one-dimensional to the point that they become annoying. I found very little of it that was even mildly amusing.

    I thought Jennifer Aniston was great as one of the evil bosses and she is probably looking sexier now in her 40’s than when she was in her 20’s. She probably took the part just so she could show off her bod, which I take it she spends a lot of time on. The three male leads are appealing and it was fun to see Farell with the comb over. However, some of the things that were said and done at the workplace would just not fly and was overdone. With the sexual harrasment laws and rules in place these days that stuff would be snuffed out quickly and I know because I have worked in corproate America for 15 years now.
    I thought it was sad that Donald Sutherland, who in the 70’s was a headlining star, was relegated to less than 3 minutes screen time in a part that was dull and meaningless. Bob Newhart’s cameo at the end was wasted. I also don’t agree with Nir who said you shouldn’t read movie reviews before going to see a film, but the reason to read a review and at least get a general idea of what the reviewer thought is good because in cases like these it can prevent you from wasting your time and money on garbage like this. In the end the cast was excellent and the story idea good, but the movie was terrible.

    • Wel, I didn’t say that you shouldn’t read reviews before viewing films but rather that I stopped for the most part; I’ve also grown to dislike trailers in general. If I actually said that, I’d like to redact it and rearrange the statement. :O)

      And on Horrible Bosses, I didn’t find it offensive because of its cooky nature. It’s a strange film that wasn’t, personally overly crude but it simply wasn’t, almost ever funny and so I disliked it quite a bunch. But for different reason than aforementioned to the movie has MANY problems. :O)

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