Every year, a select few R-rated comedies come out. They’re much fewer in number than their PG-13 brethren, but they appeal more to adults because they can include a lot of swearing, sex and possibly even some violence that wouldn’t get by in the “family friendly” PG-13 films. Horrible Bosses falls into this category; it’s a “raunchy” R-rated comedy. I put “raunchy” in quotation marks because compared to some other films with the similar tag, Horrible Bosses is actually quite tame.
At least, it’s tame if you are comparing it to something like The Hangover. Horrible Bosses just has a lot of swearing instead of an excessive amount of lude content. Oh, and its plot revolves around a plan to kill a few people, although this isn’t really a violent film. It’s mostly just about a trio of dudes wanting to better their lives all while hanging out with one another. This is a guy comedy filled with all sort of male bonding. There’s only really one female in the cast, and she’s a villain. I would have to wonder if many women would enjoy this film.
As I said, the plot involves a plan by a few people to kill their bosses. The title wants us to believe that those in superior positions to our leads are horrible, although they’re more cartoon characters than anything else. They’re also not particularly evil or menacing; mostly, they just inconvenience these people. And we’re supposed to be rooting for the working class! This was already a difficult concept to sell to me, but luckily, once the plot gets underway, I started to like them.
Let’s describe these people and their bosses. The main guy is named Nick (Jason Bateman). I call him the main guy because he’s the smartest of the group and has the most sensibility. His “twisted” boss is played by Kevin Spacey. Despite hinting that Nick is going to get a promotion, Spacey’s character takes it for himself. He also occasionally makes Nick work late and doesn’t allow him to leave early. Clearly, he’s worthy of death.
Second is Kurt (Jason Sudeikis), who works for Colin Farrell after his real boss dies of a heart attack. Farrell is a cocain addict and wants Dale to fire the overweight and large people at the company. He also talks to Kurt without much respect, although he wants his company to be profitable. Because of his “trim the fat” comment, referring to firing the overweight, Kurt wants to kill him.
Finally, we have Dale (Charlie Day). He tells us in a voice-over that the one job he wanted in life is to be a husband. Luckily for him, he’s engaged. Unluckily for him, his boss (played by Jennifer Aniston), sexually harasses him every day. For reasons I won’t get into, he can’t leave the job. He eventually gets blackmailed into a position where he has to have sex with her or else his wife will probably leave him. So, instead of doing that, he begins to plot her demise.
The man helping them along in their murder scheme is none other than Duane “I Have Profanity in my Nickname” Jones (Jamie Foxx). He’s more of a con-artist than you’d think, although he also enjoys referencing movies to explain situations. I wanted more of this character and less of the others. I also wanted real reasons to kill these bosses, but I didn’t get those either. Oh well.
I did get some laughs, though, so I suppose this is one of those cases of “be thankful for what you get, lest you be killed by an ungrateful employee.” I generally had an okay time with Horrible Bosses because it made me laugh for most of the time it was playing. That’s more important than anything else in a comedy. The character motivations can be weak (and they are), the story can meander (and it does), and it can spend have boring points (there are some of those as well), but if it’s funny I can forgive most of that. For the most part, Horrible Bosses is funny.
That’s about as much as I have to say about the humor, though. I’ll mention only that this is more of a black comedy than anything else. Onto the flaws, of which there are a lot. I mentioned most of them in the previous paragraph, but I’d like to expand upon them. First: Why are these people killing their bosses? Their justifications are very weak, and it was completely unbelievable that these average people would even attempt this. I had a hard time thinking that the story could happen because of this.
Second: The script seemed to run out of ideas midway through, leaving us sitting around hoping to stall for time so that Horrible Bosses can call itself a feature film. There are still jokes and I was laughing, but not much really happened at this point. Finally, there are a few times in the film when I wasn’t laughing, nothing much was happening, and it really began to drag. Some further cutting might have helped its pacing. (Oh, and Colin Farrell was definitely underutilized in this film. That’s another flaw!)
In the end, I laughed frequently enough to say that Horrible Bosses didn’t feel like a waste of time. Was it a really good film? Not really, but because the script was sharp enough to make me laugh, I didn’t care all that much while it was playing. It’s a tamer R-rated comedy than you might expect, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It did need more fresh ideas and better character motivations, but I had a mostly enjoyable time while watching it.