Horrible Bosses is in one way the exact opposite of the film I reviewed two days ago, Bridesmaids. Bridesmaids had a premise that I couldn’t care less about (six women preparing an all-American wedding) and turned out to be one of the funniest films I have seen the last couple of years. Horrible Bosses wetted my appetite by telling me that it was a film about three everyday schmucks who decide to kill each others’ horrible bosses. But it isn’t nearly as funny as it should be.
Having seen the trailer I had flashbacks to such brilliant past comedies as Ruthless People, and Fargo: Films that put incredibly incapable people in criminal circumstances, with hilarity ensuing because things go very wrong, both unexpectedly and inevitably. What I got was a mess of a film.
Now I must admit that I laughed a few times. I mean, it is hard to make a film about this subject with Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Anniston and Colin Farrell in comedy roles and not get a few laughs. And in many ways it is these three actors who bring some saving grace to Horrible Bosses. Farrell is shockingly awful as a bald, coke-head sex addict running his late fathers company into the ground. Spacey is delicious as a lying, backstabbing asshole andAnniston is also delicious, but on a different note. It was at once a strike of genius of the producers to cast her as an oversexed dentist harassing her assistant, as it was a mistake: It is impossible to maintain the illusion that Dale (Charlie Day) has a real problem with her advances, and even then, it never becomes painful in the way that good comedy should be. This is something the screenwriters realized and therefore they turned it into a joke, but it remains a fundamental weakness in the plot.
Quite the opposite of the famous and talented actors playing the horrible bosses are the three guys stuck with the lead roles. Day, Jason Sudeikis and Jason Bateman are instantaneously forgettable and uninteresting as Dale, Kurt and Nick (during the film, I couldn’t even remember their names). And whereas the bosses’ casting was mostly inspired (Anniston does do a good job with the material she is given) Day, Sudeikis and Bateman are completely out of touch with each other and with their dialogue. The line delivery is so awful and so shockingly badly timed, that quite a number of potentially good jokes fall flat in the water. And that hurts.
Horrible Bosses is directed by Seth Gorden, who mainly did television comedy before (the American The Office, Modern Family). And that shows. What goes wrong in line delivery with the three leads happens to Gorden in structuring his movie: the timing is a mess. Too much time is spent setting up characters and situations. Gorden uses unnecessary voice-overs and still manages to keep the characters devoid of any real characteristics. Then there is a really long middle part where the characters try to actually do stuff but fail or quit halfway through, and then the film ends.
Just like that. Without a sense of pay-off or climax. This is not a peculiarly short film, nor did I immensely enjoy myself, but when the credits started to roll I was genuinely surprised: “That’s it? It’s over? What just happened?” It is like the joke in New Kids Turbo: the film just stops because we ran out of money. But unlike that joke, this is not funny.
Oh, and Jamie Foxx plays a character called Motherfucker Jones whose only function it is to throw around explicit and annoying references to other films so as to show off how smart the makers are. Insufferable.