Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Film Review | Horrible Bosses (2011)

Horrible Bosses should more accurately be renamed "Horrible Bosses And Their Equally Horrible Employees". In fact, if we're going for a new title, it'd be much more effective to reduce the amount of words by half and call the film what it actually is: horrible.

Horrible Bosses follows the lives of Nick (Jason Bateman), Dale (Charlie Day) and Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) who all despise their bosses for different reasons. When conversation turns to whether or not they would kill their bosses if they could do it without any ramifications, the subject quickly transforms from hypothesis to a real life murder plan.

The sole redeeming feature of Horrible Bosses is the bosses themselves, with three game and talented actors in the roles. I'm not a big fan of Kevin Spacey, who plays Nick's boss David Harken, but he can turn out an entertaining performance as a psychotic business executive in his sleep - Spacey isn't challenged throughout, but his performance is satisfactorily enjoyable nonetheless. Colin Farrell, playing Kurt's boss Bobby Pellitt, shows a slick comedic streak not seen often enough with a turn rivalling Tom Cruise's Les Grossman from Tropic Thunder in both energy and prosthetics. It's a shame that Farrell is given far too little to do, leaving his character feeling disappointingly underdeveloped. Least successful of the three is Dr. Julia Harris, Dale's boss played by Jennifer Aniston, not due to Aniston's performance - which again shows a comedic talent the actress should employ much more often than the bland rom-com schtick she usually trots out - but thanks simply to some of the truly awful scenes the character is placed in.

Which brings us to the three employees, who form the rancid foundation upon which the film's ideas are woefully constructed. We are first introduced to Nick, who tells us that his path to success is through, and I quote, "taking shit" from other people. Nick is set up as a spineless, whining doormat of a man, and this continues throughout the film. Bateman is an actor whose work I've enjoyed in the past, but here he's consistently annoying. Nick, however, is the most likeable of the central trio.

Kurt is initially introduced as a relatable everyman, but this is quickly dissipated through the character's arrogance and misogyny which gets worse as the film wears on. We are led to believe that Kurt was initially in line to take over the reins of his company as a hardworking and well-liked senior employee. By the end of the film, you'll feel sorry for anyone who has to work with him. The fact that Kurt also seems unable to stop himself from sleeping with anything in a skirt also severely undermines one of the major reasons Dale has a problem with Julia: sexual harassment. At best, this can be chalked up to sloppy writing; at worst, it makes the film distastefully sexist.

Speaking of Dale, he is by far the most irritating of the three. Dale tells us through voiceover at the start of the film that all he's wanted to be since he was a boy is a husband, something entirely at odds with the character we see throughout the vast majority of the film: a grating man-child who doesn't even mention his wife past the first act. Charlie Day is not an actor I've seen a lot of, but based on his performance here I'll do my best to avoid anything involving him in the future.

With a group of lead characters as vile as these, Horrible Bosses limps on from the very start without much hope. The plot is muddled, with two of the bosses shoved to the sidelines for the second half of proceedings for no reason other than the script's inability to support all the characters introduced. Whilst the humour is clearly intended to be black, the film wholly fails to satirise anything and, whilst it raised a smile here and there, I failed to laugh at any point. In the end, Horrible Bosses scores a point each for the performances from Spacey, Farrell and Aniston, but other than that there is very little here to like.


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