Horrible bosses

Last Updated: July 29, 2011By Tags: , ,

“Horrible Bosses” pretends to be a movie for all people who hate their bosses, but really it’s a film for all people who hate films.

Directed by Seth Gordon and partly produced by Brett Ratner, it’s the classic case of a movie that doesn’t seem that wretched, until you start to take it apart afterwards and realize how badly you wasted two hours. It has some funny moments, yes, but that barely hides the fact that it approaches a cultural disaster.

There isn’t a single moment in “Horrible Bosses” – an ensemble comedy about three dorks who decide to kill their obnoxious bosses – that is remotely cinematic. It has no eye whatsoever, nor any scale beyond sketch comedy. It’s not surprising that director Gordon, since his well-received documentary “The Kings of Kong,” has worked mainly in episodic television. There’s not a shot in the movie that doesn’t say “sitcom.”

Of course calling “Bosses” a sitcom is unfair to sitcoms. Even the average sitcom must create characters with a consistent personality and acceptable motives. Sometimes sitcom characters begin as a single joke, but sooner or later they get a mother and a father or maybe a quirky girlfriend. Jennifer Aniston’s Rachel had far more depth than Bosses’ randy dentist, a one-joke sketch comedy monster.

Would being pursued by a hot, sexually forward boss be enough to drive a man to murder? That’s what we’re asked to believe about the dental assistant played by Charlie Day (from the minor TV hit “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”), a random comedy generator in the style of a poor man’s Zach Galifianakis. Why does it bother him? He loves his fiancée, of course! So if he wants to be with his gal forever, why does he risk the electric chair? And why does he spend all of his time plotting murder at the bar with his friends instead of half-watching Dancing with the Stars on the couch? Why, you almost get the sense that his fiancee exists as a flimsy prop so that he has a reason to hate his boss.

I usually value Jason Bateman’s put-upon-everyman-just-trying-to-hold-it-together routine. He’s quite good at it. But it may be reaching the point of being a signature tic rather than a fresh character. It also isn’t exactly a murderous personality type, even with a slimy, egotistical jerk of a corporate boss (Kevin Spacey). The only boss here that might invite a murder plot is Colin Farrell’s cokehead. But after this film and “Hall Pass,” Saturday Night Liver Jason Sudeikis’ middle-aged horndog persona has taken a remarkably short time to seem stale.

By the way, isn’t conspiracy to commit murder still a crime? In the happily ever after ending, the cops seem remarkably cool with it. Maybe they just want to leave the door open for future filmmakers to kill a similar project.

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One Comment

  1. Jay Pullen July 16, 2011 at 6:37 pm

    Good points; I was a little disturbed about the casualness in which Sudeikis’ character throws himself into adultery, for which there are no consequences in the film – not to mention the casual use of guns as a plot device, which is a curious American affectation. It just seems like lazy, uninspired writing – if you can’t solve a dilemma with wit, solve it with a gun. The film presented some very real workplace problems, exaggerated a bit for comic effect, and then took it well beyond the realm of reality with gunplay. Too bad. I don’t mean to sound like a puritan – people get murdered and cheat on their spouses all the time – I just don’t think these were very cleverly handled in the film. That’s too bad, too, given the charming performances of the three leads, and the very good “villains”. I agree with the assessment that this could have been a whole lot better had the writer reeled it in from the absurd a little bit; the first hour was genuine; the last half was just searching for an ending.

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