By Ezra Stead
Directed by Seth Gordon
Cheap and (especially) predictable as they sometimes are, the jokes in Seth Gordon’s Horrible Bosses work, and at its best, it made me laugh harder than any movie I’ve seen so far this year. A good example is a scene early on in which Nick Hendricks (Jason Bateman), who has been working so hard to get a promotion that the only thing still in his home refrigerator when he actually has a moment to check is an old lime (“Could have been a kiwi; no way to tell”), has said promotion brutally ripped out of his hands by his evil boss, Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey) so that Harken can take the position for himself, along with its attendant salary boost and the office Nick has been coveting. When Nick screams a profanity and drags Harken across the floor by his own necktie, any halfway-educated film viewer will immediately realize that this is a fantasy sequence, but the sheer brutality and enthusiasm of its execution manages to garner laughs despite the cliche.
Gordon, who has mostly directed episodes of television comedies such as The Office since his excellent feature film debut, The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, shows that he still has a handle on what made that film so great: the absurdities of its characters. This is a guy who found the inherent humor and poignancy in something as silly as two grown men locked in a fierce competition over who was the greatest Donkey Kong player and turned it into one of the most engaging documentaries of the past decade, and here he shows himself to be equally adept with much broader (not to mention darker) comedic material. In King of Kong he found a wonderful real-life villain in arrogant, ridiculous hot-sauce mogul Billy Mitchell, as well as a quietly noble everyman hero in family man Steve Wiebe, and these are the same archetypes he plumbs here, times three. He handles this story of three put-upon wage-slaves who conspire to kill the evil, sadistic bastards who control their financial destinies with the aplomb of a true comedic talent.
As with most screen comedies, though, the film’s two greatest assets are its writing – by Michael Markowitz, John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein – and its cast, which in addition to Bateman and Spacey includes Jason Sudeikis, Donald Sutherland and Jennifer Aniston. However, the three standout performances for me are Charlie Day, basically playing the same character he plays on TV’s It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (still my favorite currently running sitcom) but nonetheless giving the funniest performance of the three would-be boss-killers; Jamie Foxx as the “murder consultant” MF Jones (no relation to DOOM); and especially Colin Farrell in a wildly unexpected and brilliant comedic turn reminiscent of Tom Cruise’s Les Grossman in Tropic Thunder (2008). The villains are the ones who appear to be having the most fun here, and the relish with which Spacey, Aniston, and Farrell sink their teeth into these roles is a joy to behold.
Ezra Stead is the Head Editor for MoviesIDidn’tGet.com. Ezra is also a screenwriter, actor, filmmaker, rapper and poet who has been previously published in print and online, as well as writing, directing and acting in numerous short films and two features. A Minneapolis native, Ezra currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.
For more information, please contact EzraStead@MoviesIDidntGet.com.