“Horrible Bosses” wallows in silliness — gleefully, and without an ounce of remorse or self-consciousness — and even though you’re a grown-up and you know you should know better, you will be happy to wallow right along, as well.
It’s a film that’s wildly, brazenly stupid — but also, you know, fun.
Because like “Bad Teacher,” another recent raunchfest, “Horrible Bosses” knows exactly what it is and doesn’t aspire to be anything more (or dare we say “better”?), and that lack of pretention is refreshing. It isn’t trying to say anything profound about society or the economy or the fragile psyche of the post-modern man.
It’s about three guys who hate their jobs and want to kill their bosses. And really, who among us hasn’t pondered such a plan?
Naturally, no member of this trio is nearly as clever or sophisticated as he thinks he is. Together, they bumble and bungle every step of the way and occasionally, by accident, they get something right. But the dynamic between Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day as they bounce off each other is cheerfully loony, and the energy of their banter (which often feels improvised) has enough of an infectious quality to make you want to forgive the film’s general messiness. Although maybe such a sloppy approach was intentional given the subject matter.
Seth Gordon, who previously directed the inspired documentary “The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters” (and the Vince Vaughn-Reese Witherspoon romantic comedy “Four Christmases,” which we’re going to try and overlook), introduces us to each of the horrible bosses with great style and punch off the top.
Bateman’s Nick Hendricks, the group’s voice of reason, has been toiling away under sadistic taskmaster Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey in classic shark mode) at some generically corporate-techie sweat shop. Nick keeps hoping to be rewarded with a promotion that never comes.
Sudeikis, as horny accountant Kurt Buckman, actually likes his boss at the chemical company where he works (Donald Sutherland in a cameo) — but upon the man’s death, his crazy, coke-snorting son, Bobby (Colin Farrell), takes over with idiotic plans that surely will destroy the place.
And Day’s Dale Arbus, an engaged dental hygienist, must endure endless and increasingly explicit sexual harassment from Dr. Julia Harris (Jennifer Aniston) — which, as his friends point out, doesn’t sound so horrible. (If you’re a fan of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” you’ll be happy to see Day doing a similar brand of clueless man-child craziness.)
One night, after too many drinks, they hypothetically toss around the idea of knocking off their bosses. In no time this hazy notion snowballs into an actual plan, if you can call it that — they get some guidance from Jamie Foxx as an ex-con who suggests that each guy should kill another guy’s boss to avoid any suspicious connections. (Screenwriters Michael Markowitz and John Francis Daley & Jonathan Goldstein at least have the decency to acknowledge that they’re stealing their premise from Hitchcock’s “Strangers on a Train.”)
From there, a series of misadventures and showy performances carries the film through its suitably brief running time to its vaguely satisfying conclusion. Playing against type, Farrell is a cartoon character with his bad comb-over and his obsession with kung fu; his house is such a garish monstrosity, it must have been a blast for the production designers to piece together. Spacey is in his comfort zone as a commanding, condescending jerk; on the opposite end of the spectrum but just as over the top is Aniston, who seems freer than she has in a while as an aggressive vixen.
At the same time, it would have been nice to see the women in “Horrible Bosses” be in on the joke more often, rather than merely serving as the target of jokes. Aniston is a one-dimensional nymphomaniac; Julie Bowen, as Spacey’s impossibly sexy wife, is a serial adulteress. Lindsay Sloane as Dale’s fiancée is a wide-eyed innocent. The only other woman in the cast is an employee Farrell’s character refers to as Large Marge.
As “Bridesmaids” proved earlier this summer, women are just as capable of carrying this kind of comedy as men — when given the chance.