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Catching Up on 2011: Horrible Bosses

Horrible Bosses focuses on three average guys, each of whom is beset by a particularly horrible boss.  There’s Nick (Jason Bateman), an advertising executive who works excruciatingly long hours in search of a promotion, only to be shot down at every turn by his supervisor (Kevin Spacey), who delights in the perks of his position (large salary, a huge office) while gleefully forcing Nick to do all the work.  There’s Kurt (Jason Sudekis) whose happy life at a chemical company is overturned when his friendly boss (Donald Sutherland) dies and the company is taken over by his deceased boss’ drug-addicted, profane, selfish son (Colin Farrell).  Then there is Dale (Charlie Day), a dental assistant whose beautiful boss (Jennifer Anniston) harasses him sexually at every turn, even going so far as to threaten to blackmail him in order to force him to have sex with her.  So, left with no other option, the three put-upon men decide that they have no other option: they must band together and kill their bosses.

Horrible Bosses is not generally the type of comedy I’d rush out to see.  From the premise, it’s clear that this is a comedy without much footing in reality.  That the bosses are so outrageously over-the-top evil, and that the three guys come up with such a scheme to get out from under their heels, means that this movie is clearly a cartoon.  Now, that sort of outrageous fantasy can certainly be funny, but my preference is for comedies where the humor and the characters are slightly more grounded in reality.

But I was intrigued to see the film, primarily because of the phenomenal cast.  As an Arrested Development alum, Jason Bateman has my fandom hooked for life, and all of the accompanying players have proven themselves to be strong comedic forces.  And the film was directed by Seth Gordon, who helmed the superlative 2007 documentary The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters about the sub-culture of people, world-wide, who compete annually for the top score in Donkey Kong.

But ultimately, while there are certainly a lot of laughs in Horrible Bosses, the film never really grabbed me.  Part of this might be personal preference.  As I wrote above, I tend to be less into films where the characters are such caricatures.  Though there are certainly plenty of films that would fit that description, such as Bruno, that I absolutely love.  So maybe there’s more to it than that.  There’s just nothing terribly original or memorable in Horrible Bosses. There are some funny moments and some good laughs, but for me the film faded quickly from my memory.  Even a few days later I had trouble recalling the details of the film.

When Horrible Bosses works, it’s when it is mining comedy from the three amiable losers’ excursion into the world of crime.  Their attempt to reconnoiter the home of Kevin Spacey’s character results in one catastrophe after another, to rather amusing effect.  But my favorite scene in the movie is when the three men get hauled into a police interrogation room and are grilled by “The Bunk” from The Wire. (OK, Wendell Pierce’s character is listed as Detective Hagan in the credits, but come on!  It’s The Bunk!)  The scene is great not only because it’s awesome seeing the great Mr. Pierce back running an interrogation room, but because seeing how the three guys react to the crazy circumstance they’ve found themselves in is a hoot.

Horrible Bosses is a fine diversion for two hours, but I wouldn’t call it a great comedy by any means.  There’s no need to avoid this film, but no need to rush out to see it either.

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