Early on in “Horrible Bosses,” a manager named Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey) looks condescendingly at one of his employees and says, “I own you.” That remark summarizes the three main employer-employee relationships in this new comedy about three bosses who enjoy abusing members of their staff and the employees who want them dead. Although “Bosses” is wise enough to give credit to predecessors “Strangers on a Train” and “Throw Momma from the Train,” it isn’t smart enough to create the raunchy richness of this year’s earlier hit, “Bridesmaids.”
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The three mistreated employees in this story are Nick Hendricks (Jason Bateman), Dale Arbus (Charie Day) and Kurt Buckman (Jason Sudeikis). Harken, Nick’s boss, is a psychotic manager who openly mocks and threatens his employees. Meanwhile, dental assistant Dale is being sexually harassed by his boss, Dr. Julia Harris (Jennifer Aniston) while Kurt, who works at a chemical company, is often mistreated by his boss, a demented cokehead named Bobby Pellit (Colin Farrell). The three men eventually conspire to have their bosses murdered with the assistance of a ex-convict that they meet at a local bar (Jamie Foxx).
The logic of their plan is that each man will kill the other man’s boss, thus throwing off the police. This formula was used before as both a drama (“Strangers”) and a comedy (“Throw”). There’s even a scene where the three employees openly discuss and give homage to those earlier films, although one of the characters doesn’t seem to know the difference between the two.
However, there is one major problem with the plot. Dale’s boss seems to be the only dentist who was willing to hire him because of Dale’s previous conviction as a sex offender, a conviction he received after going to the bathroom in a children’s playground after hours. Although Dale wants to keep his job as a dental assistant, he also wants his boss murdered. However, if his boss is killed, he wouldn’t have a job anymore. Dale doesn’t seem to take this into consideration.
“Bosses” tries to follow in the footsteps of “Bridemaids” and “The Hangover” in its reliance on vulgarity. Unfortunately, the raunchiness in “Bosses” is often unfunny and disgusting. A few funny sex jokes could work in a film like this but the film relies on references to sexual organs, intercourse and sexual deviancy for laughs and most of the jokes fall dismally flat and may leave audiences disgusted.
There are a few funny scene, however, and some members of the supporting cast shine in their roles. Kevin Spacey, Charlie Day and Colin Farrell all stand out for the life they bring to their often unlikeable characters. However, the script falters and leaves the actors doing as much as they can with limp lines and unbelievable plot developments. The story’s conclusion ultimately feels fake as all of the main problems are resolved relatively easily. It’s as if the writers needed an easy way to tie things up and just threw in the first idea they had.
“Horrible Bosses” isn’t a terrible movie, but it’s mediocre at best and would be a horrible way to waste an afternoon.