Everyone has had a moment of wanting to kill the boss. Maybe it’s a fleeting thought after a bad meeting or a constant daydream in a hostile work environment. Either way, typically, calmer heads prevail and no lives are lost.
In Horrible Bosses, calmer heads don’t prevail, and it’s pretty damn funny.
The film follows three buddies who each have nightmare bosses. Nick (Jason Bateman: Paul) has been working for eight years for Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey: Casino Jack), an egotistical psycho who cons Nick into slavery by dangling a promotion. Kurt (Jason Sudeikis: Hall Pass) works for cokehead Bobby (Colin Farrell: The Way Back), who enjoys making irrational demands and consorting with prostitutes on his office desk. Recently engaged Dale (Charlie Day: It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) suffers constant sexual harassment at the hands of his boss Julia (Jennifer Aniston: Just Go With It).
The men can’t quit because the recession has hurt the job market. Since apparently none of these companies have Human Resources departments, these guys feel that murder is their only option.
So reasonably enough, the boys reach a murderous decision over a few beers. They’ll commit the perfect crime: Killing each other’s bosses so the police won’t see a clear motive.
Apparently none of these boys have seen how well that works out in Strangers on a Train.
Plus, they’re office workers, not assassins and they bungle just about every step of the process. Which isn’t that surprising, considering they plan the murders with the help of a local con with a name that can’t be printed in this newspaper.
Eventually, these extremely conspicuous men draw the attention of an investigating cop (Wendell Pierce: Treme), who knows these three idiots are up to no good.
As they prattfall and shriek their way through a plethora of crimes, you start to wonder just how easy it is to get away with murder these days.
Horrible Bosses isn’t a perfect comedy, but it’s a relatable one. The comedy works so well because director Seth Gordon (Four Christmases) balances the sympathetic buffoons with their horrendous employers. The bosses are monsters, but they’re funny. Farrell, Spacey and Aniston seem to relish their opportunity to curse, grope and abuse. Aniston especially seems to enjoy tarnishing her America’s Sweetheart reputation by ripping off her clothes while groping and licking Day at every opportunity.
While all the leads are sympathetic, Day is the breakout star of the film. He’s the trio’s catalyst, dutifully looking for hit men on Craig’s List before deciding to do the job himself. He sells his horror at Aniston’s advances — no mean feat considering her beauty — by shrieking rape with wide, innocent eyes. He’s truly befuddled trying to deal with this insane maneater. His mixture of willful stupidity, manic physical comedy and wisecracks makes him the most loveable and laughable buffoon of the group.
The movie has a few problems, the most notable being that these men go from complaining about their bosses to plotting their demises. They don’t think to tape the abusive behavior. Or talk to fellow employees who suffer the bosses’ wrath and start a class action suit. Yet somehow these good, seemingly intelligent men just suffer abuse after abuse in silence, then plot violent murders with their buddies. Surely there’s a middle step we’re missing there.
Nevertheless, the movie makes for an entertaining journey through the horrors of the working world. Murder may not be the answer to all employment problems, but Horrible Bosses doesn’t make it seem like a terrible solution.