Three strong comedic actors make what is generally a rip-off of the 1980 comedy 9 to 5 a pretty good time in Horrible Bosses. While it won’t take any awards for being one of the year’s more original comedies, it’s funny enough to make it worth seeing for a few good laughs.
For those of you who don’t remember 9 to 5, it starred Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton and Jane Fonda as three women being harassed at the workplace by a terrible boss (Dabney Coleman). They give serious thought to killing their boss, only to wind up kidnapping him.
In Horrible Bosses, we get three men (Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day) all having murderous thoughts about each of their bosses, so the bad boss factor is tripled, and the genders of the protagonists are switched, but the basic premise is the same.
Their bosses make Dabney Coleman’s acerbic executive look like Oprah.
For many years, Nick (Bateman) has been kissing the ass of boss Dave (a nasty Kevin Spacey, echoing his shitty boss performance in Swimming with Sharks). He thinks he’s on the way to a promotion, but he’s got a surprise coming.
Kurt (Sudeikis) loves his boss (Donald Sutherland), but circumstances lead to the boss’s son taking over, and that’s not a good thing because he’s a coked-up, cruel man named Bobby (a hilarious Colin Farrell with a comb-over similar to the one Bill Murray sported in Kingpin).
Dale (Day, an expert scene-stealer) is having a slightly different problem. He’s a dental assistant to Julia (a sinister Jennifer Aniston) who seriously wants his penis. She spends the day making comments about his penis, spraying his penis with water, and even playing with his penis when he’s under sedation for dental procedures. While Nick and Dave fail to see the problem with a hot boss wanting your dick, Day is engaged and finds the whole situation rather uncomfortable.
Thoughts eventually turn to hiring a killer, and the trio find themselves in the company of sleazy barfly Dean “Motherfucker” Jones (Jamie Foxx). Dean’s nickname leads to some very funny, straight-faced conversations when the trio addresses him formally. Dean prefers the “MF” name to his real name because Dean Jones was a famed Disney actor in the 1960s and ’70s, and that just doesn’t amount to toughness and respect in a scary neighborhood.
While the three workplace victims and their three bosses are all funny in this movie, I have to pick Bateman as my favorite. His straight-faced, deadpan reactions—used to full effect during his Arrested Development days—are top-notch, and never off the mark. There’s something very funny about his debate with Sudeikis about who would get raped more if they went to prison.
Day is in hyper weirdo mode, and I wouldn’t be surprised to hear Zach Galifianakis turned the role down. Day has a nice gift for panicky, sweat-on-the-brow humor, which is especially helpful after his character accidentally inhales a cloud of cocaine. Sudeikis, who was a good comic stooge in Hall Pass, essentially repeats that feat in this one. He’s an excellent smartass, for sure.
Of the bosses, Farrell is my pick for funniest and most disgusting. His Bobby, obsessed with martial arts and mad at handicapped employees for wheeling around in their chairs, is a hilarious abomination. Aniston, who usually plays nice people, gets a chance to play severely against type, which she embraces with much aplomb. Spacey has done the bad boss act before, and he’s got the act down.
Couple this one with Bridesmaids and you have two decent R-rated comedies alongside similarly targeted misfires like The Hangover Part II and Bad Teacher this summer. I’m hoping this August’s Change-Up (also starring Bateman) can keep the R-rated laughs a-coming. If the screamingly funny preview is any indicator on that film, Bateman will have himself a most excellent summer.