Horrible Bosses

My friend hated this movie and sat grim-faced through the entire thing. She found it crude and coarse. So did I. And I laughed my head off. Except for the somewhat repulsive story line starring Jennifer Aniston as a sex-crazed dentist, I thought Horrible Bosses was an amusing revenge fantasy.

I grew up with three brothers, which might explain why I’m not as offended by guy stuff as other women might be. It has been a hot, boring summer so a movie that makes you laugh, even if you cringe as you do so, can’t be all bad.

The flick stars three comic actors in roles that are distinct and show off their different talents. Low-key, poker-faced Nick (Jason Bateman) has worked eight years for the arrogant, manipulative evil president of sales, (Kevin Spacey).Sure, Spacey is playing his role a tad over the top, but I have personally known bosses like him so he didn’t wander too far from reality. In the current risky job market, Nick knows he can’t find another job like the one he has so he must suck up and suffer in silence. Spacey promises to blackball him if he does leave.

Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) loves his boss at the chemical company he works for–Donald Sutherland is kind, fair, and environmentally conscientious, a workplace hero. Alas, Sutherland dies in the first reel, leaving the company in the hands of his horrible son, Bobby–an evil coke-head played with reptilian glee by Colin Farrell. Kurt can’t leave his job out of concern for his co-workers, who will be left at Bobby’s cruel mercy if he leaves.

Hyperactive, eager-to-please Dale (Charlie Day) dental assistant is madly in love with his sweet fiancée and counting the days until he can become what he’s always dreamed about–being a good husband. Unfortunately, a long time ago Dale took a whiz late at night in an empty park next door to the local tavern–and he’s now a registered sex offender. The only dentist who would hire him was Julia Harris, D.D.S (Jennifer Aniston). Said dentist is determined to force Dale to have sex with her. He is determined to resist, no matter how many times she appears half-naked behind locked office doors. The closer his wedding date comes, the more predatory Dr. Harris gets.

Meant to parody how truly awful sexual harassment is in the workplace, this story line alas offers more disgust than social commentary. Ms. Anniston, playing against type, is certainly good in the role. But I wish she had used her star power to get a script re-write for her part rather than accept the Hollywood cluelessness that made her character use sex as a weapon just because she’s a woman — where the the film’s male bosses had genderless evils.

Our three heroes meet for drinks occasionally and share their misery and hopelessness. At first the idea of killing their bosses is a joke, then, as things at work get worse and worse, the idea takes on a life of its own. Enter M.F. Jones, Jamie Foxx sporting a tattoo-covered bald head. Because he’s black, the bumblers figure Mr. Jones would be a good hit man. In return for their idiotic racism, Jones won’t kill anybody – he just takes their money and gives them advice.

Out $5,000 but wiser, the three bumblers decide to put into practice all the tips from the movies they’ve seen. They fail to realized that they’ve begun to channel the Keystone Kops instead of Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train — so it’s one hilarious disaster after another. Finally when they convince themselves to do the dirty work themselves — they chicken out. They’re not really murderers, just your average, every day, unhappy American employee. But they’ve set in motion things they can’t stop. So the plot twists and the dramatic nooses director Seth Gordon sets around their necks get tighter and more tense–and more funny.

If you can tolerate the crude factor, you’ll take Horrible Bosses for what it is — a lightweight comedy with no pretenses other than to make you laugh.

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