It’s official: I’ve lost my mojo (temporarily, I hope) and I’m ready for the cracker factory. How else to explain the fact that I actually had a very good time laughing myself silly at a rude romp called Horrible Bosses? Crudely contrived, filled with the kind of sexual gags, filthy dialogue, homophobic jibes, misogynistic insults and racial slurs that bring new meaning to political incorrectness, it’s one of those revolting, raunch-fueled movies churned out in their sleep by the Farrelly brothers and Judd Apatow that I usually hate, but with real cleverness, off-center wit and edgy imagination. Imagine an X-rated Three Stooges farce, and you get the picture.
The plot is simple: Three upscale slacker buddies in suits are so abused in their jobs they want to kill their bosses. Nick, played by the appealing, immensely talented and criminally underrated Jason Bateman, is a wage slave to a big management corporation who is so overworked he hasn’t had sex in six months with anyone other than himself. After eight years of sacrifice, working 12-hour days and sucking up to one of the most evil bosses on the planet (Kevin Spacey, hilarious in the toxic mendacity department), Nick deserves a raise. Instead, he gets a wrist watch and a pink slip. Dale (Charlie Day, from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) is a dental assistant who works for a crazy, self-centered, sexually obsessed predator who grabs his crotch in a hammerlock hold while she drills root canals (Jennifer Aniston, in the funniest role—maybe only funny role?—of her career). Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) is the account manager at a chemical company where his beloved boss (Donald Sutherland) dies and leaves everything to his sleazy, oversexed cokehead son (an unrecognizable Colin Farrell with a bald head and rolling eyes like targets on a rifle range). These are bosses from hell. Foaming at the mouth with the malignant villainy of Richard III, Mr. Spacey snarls at Mr. Bateman, “I own you. You are my bitch. So get used to it. You’re in for the long haul.”
Fed up with sexual harassment, slimy office politics and no possibility of parole, these spineless losers take stock and decide their only options are misery or murder. So they spend the majority of the movie plotting ways to rid themselves of their albatrosses, opening up a string of possibilities for mirth and mayhem that end in myriad surprises. After getting the plot of Strangers on a Train mixed up with Throw Momma From the Train, they give up the idea of killing each other’s bosses and settle on hiring a hit man. The first one is an S&M master who thinks they’ve ordered a kink job to pee on them. Mortified, they end up in a dangerous black neighborhood and ante up their last $5,000 to hire a professional killer with a name you can’t print in a newspaper (Jamie Foxx). After taking their money, this terrifying thug turns out to have done some time, all right—for nothing more serious than video piracy.
And on it goes, spiraling into one wild, spontaneous comic situation after another. Accidentally, bodies fall, corpses mount, fate plays the trump card and nothing wraps up as expected. In the zaniest scenes, inspiration comes from great movie references, and these modern Marx Brothers are always one step ahead of both the killers and the cops. The psycho humor in Horrible Bosses literally smokes, thanks to balanced direction by Seth Gordon, a cockeyed script by Michael Markowitz, John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein and truly creative work by the entire cast. Mr. Bateman is perfect as the brains of the trio and Mr. Day is delightful as the lunatic who does everything wrong. As much as I hated Mr. Sudeikis in the nauseating Hall Pass (he’s also one of the worst things that ever happened to Saturday Night Live), he makes a believable group lover boy, all cleaned up, close-shaved and hair neatly parted. Mr. Farrell’s creepy comb-over and trashy office full of hot and cold running prostitutes (if I’m not mistaken, one was a dude) are twisted comic profiles close to legendary status. They all left me in stitches, in spite of myself. Jennifer Aniston simulating fellatio with a banana? What are you waiting for?
Running time 100 minutes
Written by Michael Markowitz, John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein
Directed by Seth Gordon
Starring Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, Charlie Day, Kevin Spacey