Thursday, July 07, 2011

Review: Horrible Bosses

If Alfred Hitchcock lived in our time, had an eighth of his talent and was obsessed with blunt sex jokes, Horrible Bosses is exactly the movie he would make.

Then again, if he lived during our time, he wouldn’t be able to rip off his own Strangers on a Train and likely would have had to turn to Spartacus or West Side Story for inspiration. Be thankful that didn’t happen, because while gangs of finger-snapping greasers in ancient Roman armor making vagina jokes sounds great on paper, it would likely be severely lacking in practice.

Luckily for all, the duty to make Horrible Bosses falls to director Seth Gordon, who goes for an Office Space gets run over by Strangers on a Train vibe. Despite all the funny people in the movie, it didn’t make me laugh all that much, but strangely kept me more interested in the story. I admit that watching a movie this dumb for the story is like reading Playboy for the ads.

Charlie Day, Jason Bateman and Jason Sudeikis play guys who subscribe to the maxim “Don’t like your job? Join the club. It’s called everyone, and we meet every day at the bar,” which if was not originally said by Mark Twain, should have been. Each is troubled by a boss who makes his life miserable, and after some false starts they get the idea that making a pact to kill them would set things right. I feared that the movie would take the overly bleak, Very Bad Things route by going through with the murders to reach a movie-ending existential lesson, or cop out by having the guys learn that lesson before any blood was spilled, making the movie soft enough to air on ABC Family. The fact that I’m giving the movie a positive review will tell you that the plot takes a different direction entirely.

Of all the considerable acting talent in the film, it’s the villainous bosses who shine the brightest. Kevin Spacey is back in viscous, Swimming with Sharks mode, Jennifer Aniston is as adorable as an overly aggressive lunatic can be, and Colin Farrell somehow wipes away all his cool as a toupee-donning cokehead.

The humor never quite bowled me over. Even Day, whom I consider to be the funniest actor alive, as well as the main attraction of TV’s greatest comedy, brings his C game. Bateman and Sudeikis are serviceable straight men, and Jamie Foxx does a low-rent impersonation of Samuel L. Jackson.

Somehow the suspense kept me intrigued and guessing about the fates of these dopey screenwriting constructs that pass for characters. I applaud the movie particularly for its inventive, thought-provoking display of the pros and cons of using OnStar-like navigation system.

Horrible Bosses is no Office Space or Strangers on a Train. But then, few films are. In a week in which The Zookeeper is coming out, it seems you could do worse.

Starring Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Aniston, Kevin Spacey and Colin Farrell. Written by Michael Markowitz, John Frances Daley and Jonathan Goldstein. Directed by Seth Gordon. Rated R. 108 minutes.

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