Movie Review: Horrible Bosses
The Charlotte Observer
Markowitz, Daley and Goldstein sounds like a New York firm that delivers financial advice, but they’re asking you to invest only $9 of your cash and 100 minutes of your time. They have written the funniest movie I’ve seen this year in “Horrible Bosses,” a breezy surprise in a summer of gross disappointments.
Michael Markowitz, John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein all have experience writing or acting in TV sketch comedies and situation comedies. Yet this first feature script by any of them doesn’t seem choppy or overextended, and director Seth Gordon (“Four Christmases”) drives it forward like a bullet train.
The title characters are corporate shark Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey), who psychologically tortures employees; randy dentist Julia Harris (Jennifer Aniston), who can’t keep her tools off any passing man; and coke-addicted loony Bobby Pellitt (Colin Farrell in a combover that should forever put that style to rest).
The victims are Nick Hendricks (Jason Bateman), who’s in the corporate equivalent of indentured servitude; dental technician Dale Arbus (Charlie Day), whom the dentist is blackmailing into an affair before his wedding; and Kurt Buckman (Jason Sudeikis), who’s trying to keep Pellitt from having sex with hookers in his office and firing people because they’re fat.
The filmmakers don’t expect us to believe their story. Nobody ends up on the list of registered sex offenders, as Dale does, because he took a quick bathroom break one night and “exposed himself” at the edge of a deserted playground. No, this is a fantasy along the lines of “9 to 5”: coarser, less realistic about corporate culture, but just as much a fantasy of revenge for everyone humiliated or exploited by a supervisor.
Funny lines, many of them asides, tumble forth at top speed and get lost in audience laughter. Cameo appearances all work beautifully, from Jamie Foxx’s extended bit as a supposed hit man to Ioan Gruffudd’s single scene as someone I can’t describe in this paper. (“He looks like James Bond,” says Dale, impressed at first. That’s an in-joke: The Welsh actor was considered for that role before Daniel Craig was hired.)
The long-suffering Bateman, cheerful Sudeikis and manic Day play off each other deftly: When they start slapping faces, I defy you not to think of Moe, Larry and Curly of the Three Stooges. The filmmakers set up an odd predicament: We wouldn’t want these guys to kill anyone, however venal, yet we’d be happy to see at least two of the malefactors dead. The writers solve this problem improbably but entertainingly.
We don’t want the dentist slain, just put in her place, and that raises the one semi-serious point here. Dale’s horny friends can’t understand why he’s miserable – isn’t a hot woman begging to sleep with him? – and her behavior has to accelerate to sexual terrorism before they see it’s wrong.
We’ve learned to deplore men who harass female employees sexually, but how seriously would we take a complaint if the offender looked like Jennifer Aniston? This film suggests we’d laugh it off, but bullying is bullying, however foxy the boss might be.