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Horrible Bosses

A movie directed by Seth Gordon

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Take This Job – and This Movie – and Shove It

  • Jul 9, 2011
Star Rating:

Why do people think movies like this are funny? I’m not posing a rhetorical question; I really want to know what it is about these kinds of comedies that audiences find so appealing. The reason I’m asking is because, after not laughing during recent crowd-pleasers such as Drillbit Taylor, Step Brothers, Dinner for Schmucks, Due Date, Hall Pass, The Hangover Part II, and Bad Teacher, I’m forced to assume that I’ve completely lost touch with the American sense of humor. At a certain point, when you continue to sit stoically while everyone else in the theater keeps on yukking it up, you finally begin to realize that the problem is you, not them. That doesn’t make me feel any better. God forbid I should prefer cartoon pratfalls and innocent sight gags to penis jokes, endless four-letter words, and physical and verbal cruelty.
To be sure, Horrible Bosses is not as bad as many of the films I just listed. It is pretty bad, however. Apart from the tasteless sexual humor, the raunchy dialogue, and the unlikeable characters, it tells a story so implausible that it’s almost an insult to an audience’s intelligence. It’s also very unpleasant. To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure this story should have been told as a comedy; at the very least, it should not have included jokes that came at the expense of the unemployed and financially strapped. Consider a brief appearance by a man who, because of his bleak professional status, has resorted to masturbating men in the bathroom of a bar for a small fee. That we don’t actually see this happening is not the point; it is, quite simply, in bad taste to make light of current economic conditions.

The plot involves three friends who plot to have their abusive bosses murdered. Nick Hendricks (Jason Bateman) is an executive who learned that taking crap from people is the only way to succeed in life. It’s a lesson he learned from his late grandmother, who came to this country with just $20 and died with $2,000. His boss is Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey), a heartless, spiteful man; after tricking Nick into drinking an entire glass of scotch at eight in the morning, he promotes himself to a position promised to Nick. As the film progresses, we watch him devolve from a power-hungry jerk to a sadistic monster. He’s convinced that his wife is cheating on him with everyone in the neighborhood, and as we will learn, he doesn’t take kindly to men having their way with her.
Dale Arbus (Charlie Day) is a dental assistant for Dr. Julia Harris (Jennifer Aniston). Although beautiful, she’s sexually aggressive and harasses Dale at every available opportunity – including during a procedure while her patients are loopy on Novocain and nitrous oxide. On her iPad, she has photos of herself taking advantage of Dale, who was in the dentist’s chair and clearly under the influence. She decides to blackmail him; if he doesn’t have sex with her, she will show those photos to his fiancée (Lindsay Sloane), a sweet and innocent young woman Dale adores. He tells us during his opening voiceover narration that his purpose in life is to be a husband, which is fair enough except for the fact that we don’t really see that level of intimacy or longing. It comes off as nothing apart from lines of dialogue.
Kurt Buckman (Jason Sudeikis) has been an accountant for a chemical company for several years. Prior to the death of his beloved boss, Jack Pellitt (Donald Sutherland), he loved his job. But now he works for Jack’s son, Bobby (Colin Farrell), a balding, coke-addicted, whore-loving, amoral idiot who could not care less about the company or his father’s ideals. In order to tighten the budget, for example, he arranges to have chemical waste transplanted to an African village, where it will be dumped with no regard for the people. He doesn’t like the way certain employees look, including the overweight woman that may be pregnant and the man in the wheelchair. If Kurt doesn’t fire one of them, he explains, all three of them will get the boot.

When Nick, Dale, and Kurt decide to have their bosses killed, they seek out a hitman. Here enters a character played by Jamie Foxx, whose professional name cannot be repeated publically. We will call him by his last name, Jones. For a fee of $5,000, he becomes their “murder consultant” and advises that each one kills a different boss. From here, the film loses all steam and becomes a tiresome screwball comedy, filled with over-the-top physical gags and moronic mistakes that push the boundaries of taste. I will not spoil the sequence of events, nor will I reveal who if anyone dies and who if anyone gets off scot free. I will say there are a lot of profanity-laced spats between the three men that at times go on and on and on.
In spite of the performances, which were admittedly decent, every role was so broadly drawn that that I was unable to hold the slightest interest in them. Given the one-dimensional way in which they’re written, Julia and Jones in particular are likely to offend certain audiences (there is a reason this film has been accused of misogyny and racism). The rest of the characters aren’t offensive so much as needlessly vulgar, which gets old very quickly. And with that, I come full circle to the issue of humor – or rather, my apparent lack of it. Why should I have found Horrible Bosses funny? Furthermore, what deeper subtexts, if any, did I conveniently gloss over? Perhaps I’m a bit old fashioned, but I long to return to the days when a laugh wasn’t generated by mindless pandering to the lowest common denominator.


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July 14, 2011
Why did this movie get a +3 then, with such an awful review? Also, you probably need to lighten up a bit, or just stop going to these movies.
July 14, 2011
I'm a critic -- part of my job is seeing these movies whether I like them or not. As for the +3, you should pay attention to the number of stars I give a film, not to the plus/minus number system (which I never liked).
July 13, 2011
Haha, love the title of your review! I'm going to have to see this :)
July 14, 2011
I do try to come up with clever titles, although I usually don't succeed. And isn't it funny that I'm warning you not to see it, and yet my review title is having the opposite effect?
July 13, 2011
We get a very primal joy out of other people's pain it's called schadenfreude. And well feel less guilty when those in pain are unlikable. It's like in just about every horror movie ever: The unlikable characters get hacked to bits in the most provocative ways, and when it comes time for a likable character to die it's rarely a spectacle, in face, there's usually as little of it shown as possible. So in the realm of comedy, a writer can do anything to a bad character. If it were a good, likable character, it would be kind of a bummer like reading the Book of Jobe.
July 14, 2011
I'm familiar with schadenfreude. I think my issue is that I don't experience it; I never take pleasure in anyone getting hurt, not even if the person is unlikeable and probably deserving of it. That doesn't necessarily make me a better person. If anything, I'm probably far too sensitive.
July 10, 2011
I don't mind comedies that have that raunchy feel, and sexual jokes as long as it is done right and there is a purpose to all of it. Comedies are tough to review and it usually depends on one's sense of humor. I dunno, I have heard that Aniston got pretty sexy in this film, so that may be enough to draw me to a bargain screening for this movie. Thanks for sharing!
More Horrible Bosses reviews
review by . December 05, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
*** out of ****    Every awesome movie idea deserves a worthwhile execution; and I'd say it's about time that someone make a film that addresses a common thought that circulates throughout the collective minds within the walls of the workplace: our boss sucks, and we wish we could murder him. Yes, a movie like "Horrible Bosses" was bound to happen one day, and alas, it's all you could have wanted out of a premise that basically suggests it's about three men trying to kill their …
review by . July 10, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
   I recall reading something a year or two ago about employee dissatisfaction. It commented that it tended to increase during times of economic trouble because employees who felt unhappy in the workplace didn’t have the ability to escape. They were stuck with their current jobs, since leaving might mean they couldn’t find another one. They also seldom got sympathy from other people who said, “Hey, at least you have a job!” This reached its culmination for me when …
review by . July 07, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
We have all, or know someone who has had a horrible boss at one point or another.  That one person who makes us want to down a bottle of tequila (or whatever alcohol you prefer) by the end of the night, or just simply makes getting up and going into work the one thing that we don't wish we never had to do.  But what would happen if we were some how able to get our revenge.  Would you act alone or would you enlist the help of a friend to carry out whatever vicious method of revenge …
review by . July 06, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
'Horrible Bosses' 'Two Jews On Film' Agree (Finally) - This Is One Very Funny Comedy (Video)
      By Joan Alperin-Schwartz      The main thing I want when I watch a comedy...is to laugh...alot....And that is exactly what happened when I saw, director Seth Gordon's new film, 'Horrible Bosses'.       Nick Hendricks (Jason Bateman) has been working 12 hour days at Comnidyne Industries and swallowing all the abuse his twisted, sadistic, control freak boss, Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey) throws at him.  Nick even …
review by . July 07, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
At first glance this looks like a very impressive cast, it makes one ponder how they could get so many talented people in one place. Then I actually started to think about it, how they got so many big names to the table. Then that led me to wonder if any of these actors are actually big names anymore. Sure, you recognize everyone on the poster but what have they been doing? Then it came to me, nothing, they either haven't done anything of note for the past 5 years or they are up and coming actors …
About the reviewer
Chris Pandolfi ()
Ranked #5
Growing up a shy kid in a quiet suburb of Los Angeles, Chris Pandolfi knows all about the imagination. Pretend games were always the most fun for him, especially on the school playground; he and his … more
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