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Zettel Film Reviews » Horrible Bosses – witty, stylish, silly and satisfying. Fun

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Horrible Bosses – witty, stylish, silly and satisfying. Fun

 

Deadly Trio

 

Horrible Bosses – Seth Gordon

The best comedy I’ve seen this year. And judging by the queues, a word-of- mouth hit. The sheer pace and minimal gag gaps in Horrible Bosses means our interest never flags and the next laugh is never far away. Lots of very solid TV comedy experience is all there on the screen to see and enjoy from Director Seth Gordon (US – The Office), Writers Michael Markowitz and John Francis-Daley (Dr Sweets from TV’s Bones) to ex-Saturday Night Live writer and comedian Jason Sudeikis

Superb ensemble playing and pulse perfect comedy timing by the three central characters milks every drop of fun and laughter out of the slightly crazy storyline of 3 buddies in their 40s each stuck in jobs with nightmarish bosses they would like to murder. Turning wish into fulfilment, they decide, on the advice of their murder ‘consultant’ – Jamie Foxx, so cool, hip-talking, and blessed thanks to his own mother, with the nickname ‘Motherfucker’. I said it was funny: I didn’t say it was subtle. But see what they do with this simple, even clichéd device.

Foxx’s $5,000 worth of advice, derived from Hitchcock’s Strangers on The Train, is that as each would have a motive to kill their own boss and come under suspicion, they dispatch each others. Having seen the bosses in question we rather sympathise with their plight and we willingly go along with the deliciously silly plot that manages to hover just this side of farce throughout.

The strong playing of our three central players Nick (Bateman), Dale (Day), and Kurt (Sudeikis) is matched by 3 wonderfully OTT turns by Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston (yes – and this time she’s very good), and an unrecognisable Colin Farrell. If we guys in the audience do feel more sympathy for Nick and Kurt’s dilemma, this is only to be expected as just-engaged dental assistant Dale’s problem is that his Dentist boss Julia (Aniston) is a dirty-talking voracious sexual predator far more pre-occupied with insertion than extraction – and he’s her target. Aniston plays dirty with just the right kind of shameless confidence and style to keep the humour and throw out the smut only too dangerously lurking in this scenario. Horrible Bosses proves throughout the important distinction between trying to get laughs at being dirty; and using being dirty as an element in making us laugh at something else: here the ironic gender role-reversal.

The likeability of Bateman’s screen persona reinforces our sympathy with his efforts to cope with tyrannical power-junkie Dave Harken (Spacey) who extends command-control management to include total domination and humiliation. Sudeikis starts out ok as the indispensable number two and hard-working surrogate son to Donald Sutherland’s Jack, avuncular owner of a chemical company. Sutherland’s real son Bobby (Farrell) is a waste of space wannabee playboy just waiting to get his hands on the company money. Jack’s fatal heart attack provides Kurt’s ticket to the murder club when new boss Bobby decides to trim company fat by getting Kurt to fire all the fat people; and other ludicrous demands.

As you may expect, our three nice-guy buddies forced by circumstance into becoming reluctant assassins are hopelessly inept at the task and reconnaissance trips to their victims’ homes become farcically disastrous. Kurt for example, with the tacit nod of understanding from the red-blooded males in the audience, decides that before dispatching Julia he really ought, out of a sense of justice and fair play I’m sure, prove for himself that Dale’s fate-worse-than-death sexual threat from Julia, would really be that bad.

Director Gordon avoids the pitfalls awaiting efforts to transpose the rapid gag-fire pace of 30-minute TV comedy into a 98 minute movie. He strikes a perfect balance between the breakneck pace of the first and the leisurely gag-sparse rhythm of many so-called film comedies. As he also has a witty, stylish screenplay and players with excellent timing, he can avoid the curse of weak-scripted gross-out movies which have to rush breathlessly from one sight-gag to another. In fact in comic structure and style the screenplay for Horrible Bosses is somewhat reminiscent of the Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais scripts for The Likely Lads and others. And that’s a high standard of comparison.

Hangover it is not. And while despite myself I laughed at that (less so its follow-up clone) – Horrible Bosses shows you how much funnier it is possible to be when you can blend good writing with good playing and assured Direction. The last time I remember these elements being brought together so well was Shane Black’s, darker in style, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005).

See it. It will make you laugh. Even the silly bits.

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