Horrible Bosses takes a thin premise and milks it for all its worth, riding a witty script and super-strong cast to comedic glory.
Sure, just about every character in the movie is cartoonish, and the script is full of glaring logical lapses, but the performances and jokes are all uniformly solid. Other than , it's the funniest movie of the year (so far).
The plot is yet another itineration of Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train and its 1980s comedy remake Throw Momma From the Train—both mentioned by name, just as the latter namechecked the former—filtered through Great Recession career anxieties.
Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day are three workaday guys suffering under the torment of titular awful bosses: Kevin Spacey as Bateman's tyrannical company president; Jennifer Aniston as the dentist to Day's assistant, who subjects him to constant sexual harassment; and Colin Farrell (with a bald cap and prosthetics), supervising Sudeikis while living a Charlie Sheen-like coke-and-hookers lifestyle.
The three men, despite numerous other, better options available to them, decide to kill their workplace tormentors. The movie's great (if unoriginal) joke is that these bumbling fools lack the daring, smarts and street savvy to pull it off. A premise like this could easily run out of steam quickly, but it doesn't, mostly because the jokes are so strong, and the actors deliver them so well.
Bateman and Sudeikis play versions of their usual personas, but the breakout here is Day, best known from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (on which one of his costars is Throw Momma From the Train director/star Danny DeVito). He does a lot of his chaotic Sunny schtick here, from high-pitched squealing to getting out of tight spots by pretending to be a lawyer, but I get the sense that he's going to be headlining Hollywood comedies in a year or two.
Spacey gives an entertaining performance, sort of an even more deranged version of his character from the mid-'90s movie Swimming With Sharks, while Aniston is the funniest she's been since the early seasons of Friends. Farrell is hilarious, too, in a pretty brief role, and there's even an entertaining part for Julie Bowen (from Modern Family).
Jamie Foxx is also on-hand in a two-scene role as a guy facilitating the murder. I won't spoil it, but he has probably the funniest character name since McLovin. And there are two different cameos that The Wire enthusiasts are going to love.
Horrible Bosses was directed by Seth Gordon, whose last two films were wildly divergent: The amazing 2007 documentary The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, which was about two guys fighting each other to break the world record in Donkey Kong (seriously, check it out on Netflix), followed by the abominable 2008 Vince Vaughn/Reese Witherspoon comedy Four Christmases.
He's also done episodes of The Office, Parks and Recreation and Modern Family; this film is much closer to that style, and level of humor, than his previous comedy.
Sure, the plot has many holes in it—the characters plan to kill someone by poisoning his cocaine, while calling the cops on him for said cocaine would solve their problem more easily. Yes, it's sort of hard to root for a murder plot, but Horrible Bosses succeeds in delivering consistent laughs, which is more than I can say for most comedies these days.
The Silver Screen Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
Roll Credits: Horrible Bosses
Directed by: Seth Gordon
Starring: Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston, Colin Farrell, Jamie Foxx, Julie Bowen.
Length: 1 hour and 40 minutes