Horrible Bosses

Seth Gordon

BY Bjorn OlsonPublished Jul 7, 2011

Bosses: can't live with 'em, can't kill 'em. Horrible Bosses is a gleefully absurd new comedy from Seth Gordon (director of the incredible documentary The King of Kong and the not-so-incredible Four Christmases). The film stars Jason Bateman, Jason Sudekis and Charlie Day as three milquetoast-y long-time friends all experiencing the pain of working for terrible, terrible people.

Bateman's Nick Hendricks has had his nose to the grindstone for six years to impress his boss, the "Slave-driving Psycho" (Kevin Spacey), who nitpicks and browbeats him at every opportunity, ultimately passing him over for a promotion. Sudekis's Kurt Buckman has to deal with the idiot son, or "Sleazy Tool" (Colin Farrell), of his beloved late boss (Donald Sutherland), and Day's Dale Arbus is forced to fend off the aggressive sexual advances of his boss, the "Maneater" (Jennifer Aniston). Of course, the most sensible thing for this trio to do would be to off these indescribable ass-pains and move on with their lives, so they travel from suburban safety to the wrong side of the tracks and enlist the help of an ex-con by the name of "Motherfucker Jones" (Jamie Foxx).

Horrible Bosses cleverly taps into our collective cultural anxiety over the world of work, creating three excellent over-the-top caricatures to embody that apprehension. Spacey's supercilious, steely-eyed company president is the most realistic; he's the kind of emotionless bloodsucker with a fondness for entrapment we've all had to deal with and kowtow to in order to collect a paycheque. Aniston does smart work, bringing raw sensuality to her against-type part, and Farrell's kung-fu cokehead is a complete cartoon, but also hilarious, and doesn't get nearly enough screen time.

Horrible Bosses is a taught, well-written comedy (by debut screenwriter John Francis Daley, who also appears briefly in the film) that's well aware of its ridiculousness, but always stays within the logic of its narrative and rarely goes for lazy laughs. While summertime cinema is often rife with outlandish fantasy, Horrible Bosses has an almost classical feel, offering a nice therapeutic respite before returning to the rat race.

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