Sunday, July 10, 2011

Charlie Day Is More Active Than Jason Bateman In Horrible Bosses, A Shockingly Average Comedy Ruined By The Previews.

The Good: Funny, Great cast
The Bad: Fails to pop, Stretches without humor, No character development.
The Basics: Horrible Bosses is another comedy that was worth watching once, but is not going to light the world on fire.

Every once in a while, I think it helps my readers to clarify my standards for my ratings. I mention this because I know I bombard my readers with the constant lament that virtually every film I've looked forward to lately has been ruined by excessive previews which end up showing all of the best parts of the movie. Horrible Bosses suffers for exactly that reason, but when considering the film objectively, it made me think that I ought to once again clarify my rating system. On the ten point scale, ten is absolute perfection, zero is absolute waste of time. 9.5 is usually reserved for virtually perfect works, with .5 usually being reserved for "this just isn't the worst piece of garbage ever. 8 - 9 are Excellent, 7.5 - 6.5 would be classified as "above average," with 6 - 4 being the broad range of "average," 3.5 - 2.5 are "below average," and anything below that is "poor." I mention this at the outset of my review for Horrible Bosses because the movie was far more average than actually bad. In fact, I enjoyed the movie, but rated with objective standards, it is a remarkably average movie on the low side of average and not one I would pay to see a second time.

My wife and I went to see Horrible Bosses with a whole lot of enthusiasm today. My wife is a big fan of comedy, she loves Charlie Day - as she's a big fan of It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia (reviewed here!) - and we are both fond of the works of Jason Bateman. So Horrible Bosses was set to be a real treat for both of us. Unfortunately, I found that the best moments were the ones in the trailers and that there wasn't much more to the movie outside that. I also realized that since Date Night (reviewed here!), I've seen a lot of rated-R comedies that involve car crashes.

Horrible Bosses is a pretty simple concept comedy that doesn't develop far once the concept is introduced. In fact, it takes a while for the main plot concept to be introduced and once it's there, the movie obsesses on it and then comes to a fairly predictable conclusion.

Nick, who hasn't had sex with anyone else in six months, works from sunup to sundown at Comnidyne under Harken, a cruel bastard who keeps him under his boot with the hope of a promotion to Senior Vice President Of Sales. Dale, newly engaged, works for Julia as her dental hygienist. All Dale wants in life is to be a husband and all Julia, inexplicably, wants is to have sex with Dale. Kurt is the accountant working at the chemical company Pellit & Sons under the kind Jack and his dipshit cokehead son Bobby. Jack has a heart attack and Bobby inherits the company, which he plans to squeeze for all the profit to buy drugs and hookers with, putting Kurt in an untenable long-term situation. One night over beers, the three muse about how their lives would be easier if their bosses were dead and Kurt and Nick - who has been passed over for the promotion that Harken has given himself - honestly consider the idea. Dale is absolutely against the idea, but turns from the voice of reason to wanting Julia dead when he learns that Julia raped him while she cleaned his teeth once.

After a misstart with the search, the trio meets with Motherfucker Jones who charges them $5000 to consult on the murders of their respective bosses and the three begin surveillance designed to put them in position to kill one another's employers. In the process of surveillance, Dale accidentally saves Harken's life, Nick and Dale unwittingly do a lot of Bobby's blow and Kurt lets his hormones get the better of him with both Julia and Harken's wife. This leads to a revenge killing which completely upturns the three men's murder plot and puts them on a ridiculous run from the law with their lives in danger.

Horrible Bosses is most disappointing in that it is unsurprising. The random elements that could have been the most funny were all spoiled in the trailers, most notably Nick using drag racing in his Prius as an excuse for being caught doing ridiculously excessive speeds in a 25 mph zone. The rest of the humor on Horrible Bosses comes from the situation setup by the concept. These men work for employers who make their lives hell. There is humor in that, from the way Harken manipulates Nick - forcing him to stay late and miss the death of his grandmother to saving the job of the security technician by "confessing" to a "lie" about how late he was to work in the morning - to the sexual harassment by Julia. The search for a killer to hire is amusing, mostly when the trio considers going to Applebees to find their killer and instead decides on the neighborhood with the most car jackings. But even that moment quickly passes and the film plods along in remarkably predictable fashion, with random jokes like the Indian voice over the On-Star-esque navigation system revealing his name is not truly Gregory and the guys stumbling over the proper pronunciation.

What I did like about the movie was that Horrible Bosses has a good setup and while it might have moments that seem objectionable, it addresses them within the film. Most notably, when searching for a murderer, the guys go to a bar that is very urban. No, it's not "urban," it's black. Black people everywhere and the whites who are there look like they want to be gangbangers. That raised my ire for the stereotype and the jokes wherein Jason Sudeikis' Kurt tries to talk and move like the people in the bar fell pretty flat. Jamie Foxx is a good sport as Motherfucker Jones, but what redeemed the whole inner city portion of the movie was the third meeting with Jones where he addresses just how ridiculous the premise Kurt was working on was.

Horrible Bosses also does have a pretty amazing cast. On the movie posters before the film was released, I noticed Donald Sutherland was in the cast and I could not fathom how he was not mentioned in every preview. His role is little more than a cameo as Jack. The acting, though, was nothing particularly special. While it might seem a real coup to get Jennifer Aniston, Kevin Spacey, Julie Bowen, Collin Farrell, Jason Sudeikis and Jason Bateman into one movie, with them all there, the movie never quite lands because they are all working well within their comfortable ranges.

Nowhere is this more clear than with Charlie Day. Charlie Day starts off with impressing by playing Dale as reasonable and arguably the smartest of the group. But it isn't long before he slips into his usual high-pitched whines and his manic physical comedy. What is even more disappointing is that he virtually repeats a riff from It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia when Dale plays the Law And Order obsessed legal card. He did exactly the same thing in his television show and it was groanworthy to see it repeated here.

But again, Horrible Bosses is not bad. But it's not really extraordinary in any way and while it was amusing enough to laugh at, it doesn't quite pop to even inspire one to watch it again or think about it once they are done watching it.

For other works with Jason Bateman, please check out my reviews of:
The Change-Up
The Switch
Couples Retreat
Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Arrested Development


For other movie reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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