Movie News & Reviews

'Horrible Bosses': a horrible waste of talent

(L-r) JASON SUDEIKIS as Kurt Buckman, CHARLIE DAY as Dale Arbus, and JASON BATEMAN as Nick Hendricks in New Line Cinema’s comedy “HORRIBLE BOSSES,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.
(L-r) JASON SUDEIKIS as Kurt Buckman, CHARLIE DAY as Dale Arbus, and JASON BATEMAN as Nick Hendricks in New Line Cinema’s comedy “HORRIBLE BOSSES,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

If you are bright enough to count your change at the popcorn stand, you are too smart to see Horrible Bosses.

This misbegotten mess mashes the "three nitwits on an adventure" template of the Hangover movies into a workplace comedy/ vigilante fantasy. With indifferent direction, repetitive action and gags that belong in the Comedy Ancient History Museum, this dreary, joke-thin film is pitched well south of the lowest common denominator. Somewhere around Antarctica, perhaps.

Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day play downtrodden workers who decide to terminate their obnoxious employers, permanently. The premise could have made for a fun-bad romp, but the production is boring-bad. The fact that this lukewarm entertainment could attract such a high-profile cast (including two Oscar winners, several beloved TV performers and a pair of surprise cameos by iconic older actors) is a measure of how debased American film comedy has become.

Bateman, who has been coasting for years on the goodwill he earned in Arrested Development, deserves to have that pass revoked, shredded and set afire. As the yes-man to an übercreep executive (Kevin Spacey), Bateman makes an utterly unsympathetic corporate toady who is a drinking buddy of Sudeikis and Day. We never learn the basis of their friendship; clear exposition is not the script's strong suit, and please don't ask me what is. You could find more literate, character-driven entertainment on a TV shopping channel.

In any event, the boys' beerfests devolve into misery-loves-company work-related gripe sessions. Sudeikis works for a hostile cokehead (Colin Farrell, over the top in the sort of gross-guy makeup that turned Tom Cruise bald and paunchy in Tropic Thunder). Day plays a dental assistant who is devoted to his fiancée and sexually harassed non-stop by his vampish employer (Jennifer Aniston, who — gasp — says naughty words).

With Bateman underplaying to the verge of invisibility, Sudeikis doing a one-note turn as an overage frat boy and the excitable Day piping his lines like a tea kettle, our heroes are every bit as hard to like as their workplace superiors.

When one suggests that a few assassinations would improve workplace morale, the boys head to a ghetto bar in search of a killer for hire. Jamie Foxx steps up as a tattooed tough who charges them a fortune in exchange for homicide advice any casual viewer of Law & Order could provide. Thus ill-equipped, the saps set off on a light-hearted killing spree.

Naturally, fate thwarts their plans. Horrible Bosses is too timid to lead anywhere truly dark and disquieting. Veering into troubling territory would imply a respect for the audience's intelligence that this film entirely lacks. With their bosses dead or defeated, the boys end up with a happily-ever-after finale (more or less) and clean hands.

Final score: Murder one, Audience zero.

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