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Monday, July 18, 2011

Julia (Jennifer Aniston) gets a little too personal
with her employee, Dale (Charlie Day), in Horrible Bosses.

2.5 Stars

Horrible Bosses turns a brilliant premise and all the star power in the world into a limp mid-summer comedy that's far from horrible but even further from living up to its potential. I was consistently amused while watching the film, but I rarely laughed out loud and I don't think I ever found myself shocked by the material. What could have been the darkest of dark comedies ends up feeling a lot like every other R-rated comedy this summer. A few enjoyable and funny characters save director Seth Gordon's film, but they aren't enough to make it worthy of the unqualified recommendation I had been hoping I could give it.

Friends Nick (Jason Bateman), Kurt (Jason Sudeikis), and Dale (Charlie Day) are very different, yet one thing brings them together, and if you haven't guessed yet, it's that they hate their bosses. Nick has a successful career and is in line for a great promotion, but his boss, Dave (Kevin Spacey), makes it all hell. Kurt loves his job, but when his living saint of a boss suddenly dies, his son (Colin Farrell) takes over and begins running the place into the ground. Then there's sweet Dale, who dreamt all his life of being a wonderful husband. He's engaged and loves his fiance dearly, but his relationship is constantly in jeopardy when his boss, Dr. Julia Harris, D.D.S., starts blackmailing him into having sex with her. Having gone past the breaking point, they feel they have no other choice but to kill their bosses. It sounds harsh, but with the help of expert hitman Motherfucker Jones (Jamie Foxx), they just might be able to pull it off.

Of the six main characters, three were standouts, and three were duds. Surprisingly, it's the horny dentist played by Jennifer Aniston that generates the most laughs. Maybe part of it is seeing the generally buttoned-up Aniston really let loose, but I think most of it comes from the chemistry between she and Day. His Dale is the Zach Galifianakis of this film (though tamer and a lot less disgusting). Nick is the other memorable character. Bateman is as good an everyman as anyone else working today, and here he's no different. But in the face of colossal characters and mind-numbing situations, his brand of comedy is really refreshing. I also have to award bonus points to Jamie Foxx for his unforgettable portrayal of a dude named Motherfucker. His ten minutes on screen are easily the film's funniest.

But for every funny, enjoyable, and memorable character, we get a stale, creepy, or boring one. Kevin Spacey is OK as Dave, but he's played over-the-top mean a thousand times before. Colin Farrell is underused as Bobby, but his one shining scene is a little more icky than funny. Sudeikis' Kurt, however, is the worst. He has all the normalcy of one of our protagonists, except he has some really strange and creepy sexual habits. It makes us really not care about his third of the story because there's nothing that draws us to him. He pushes the viewer away, which is exactly what his boss should be doing, not him.

The laughs are disappointingly sporadic, especially as the film goes on. It takes the easy way out and finishes with the tiniest of whimpers. Earlier this summer, Bridesmaids proved R-rated comedies can succeed both critically and commercially without Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and the Hangover gang. Horrible Bosses is getting a pass from most based on the strength of the cast, but unfortunately, that just wasn't enough for me, especially when half of the main characters were uninteresting. I won't hate on it too much because it really isn't that bad, it's just a disappointment.


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