The Herald Bulletin

July 7, 2011

'Horrible Bosses' doesn't do its job

By Heather Bremer
The Herald Bulletin

— Attention all disenchanted employees toiling in cramped cubicles, plotting sweet revenge against an overbearing, awful boss: “Horrible Bosses” may provide a few laughs, but it won’t go far in easing your pain.

BACKGROUND: “Horrible Bosses” is based on a script written by Michael Markowitz, whose most widely known work to date is 10 episodes of Ted Danson’s “Becker.” New Line Cinema purchased the script in 2005. In 2010, Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley (“Bones,” “Freaks & Geeks”) did a rewrite, and the project went into production with Seth Gordon, who had a smattering of experience directing television and did "Four Christmases" and the doc "King of Kong," at the helm.

Markowitz used personal experiences with bad managers to create the three boss characters in the film. He also wrote the role of Nick Hendricks specifically for Jason Bateman and that of Dr. Julia for Jennifer Aniston.

SYNOPSIS: Three friends pushed too far one too many times plot to murder their abusive bosses. But doing away with the one thing standing between them and happiness isn’t as easy as it initially seems.

THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE UGLY: Comedy is a tricky thing to market, and “Horrible Bosses,” much like this summer’s “The Hangover 2,” made the cardinal sin of putting too many of its best moments in the trailers. So as far as the funny goes, well, you already know how it goes.

The plot is also fairly predictable, without any surprises to give it a signature or even memorable moment.

Despite these pitfalls, most of the performances are good.

Jason Bateman isn’t challenged by the role of the badgered Nick, a character very close to the ones he’s played since “Arrested Development.” But this is what he’s good at and it shows.

Jason Sudeikis, a “Saturday Night Live” alum, is surprisingly tolerable as Kurt and plays off his co-stars well. Though, given Kurt’s apparent status as a ladies man, the film may have been more interesting if Bateman and Sudeikis had swapped roles.

Charlie Day really sinks his teeth into the role of dental hygienist Dale. He’s funny and frantic, displaying the comedy chops he honed on “Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”

Among the bosses, only Kevin Spacey as Nick’s boss Dave Harken really commits to the “evil” aspect of the role. Spacey is always good at crazy, and he holds nothing back as the sadistic Harken.

Aniston and Colin Farrell, as Kurt’s nemesis Bobby Pellitt, are playing stereotypes instead of embracing their characters’ awfulness. Aniston, particularly, almost seems hesitant about the raunchy material she’s been given to work with.

THE FINAL SCORE: While “Horrible Bosses” was a nice break from this year’s raucous, effects-laden summer fare and may fulfill the fantasies of some overworked minions, the outcome was somewhat disappointing, especially if you're expecting a new "Office Space." But if you managed to avoid the trailers, you may enjoy this R-rated romp.

EXTRAS: The closing credits feature bloopers, outtakes and the film’s stars mugging for the camera. And Bob Newhart’s cameo is pretty priceless.

"Horrible Bosses" has a run time of 100 minutes and is rated R.