Seth Gordon's comedy rides high with the titular bosses, but is let down by their minions
The blunt title of Seth Gordon’s star-packed comedy might lack finesse but it is certainly accurate: Horrible Bosses features three utterly repulsive Los Angeles-based line managers as its villains.
Dr Julia Harris (Jennifer Aniston) is a sex predator dentist determined to have her way with mousey aspirator Dale Arbus (Charlie Day). Bobby Pellitt (Colin Farrell) is the coke-snorting inheritor of the business empire of his ailing father Jack (Donald Sutherland), while the hard-working Nick Hendricks (Jason Sudeikis) is unfairly passed over. And Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey) is the archly manipulative master of the temporarily downtrodden Kurt Buckman (Jason Bateman).
As the three downtrodden employees compare notes on the unfairness of their work situations, they hatch a plan to kill off their bosses, swapping murders to conceal their guilt in the style of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1951 classic Strangers On A Train. But after setting its mild-mannered protagonists on the path of murder, Horrible Bosses is less about tension than the kind of masculine knockabout comedy best exemplified by The Hangover and its sequel.
There’s a smattering of blackly comic lines and situations in Horrible Bosses that keep it watchable, with Aniston shedding her good girl image and her clothes in a shockingly foul-mouthed turn, and an amusing cameo from Jamie Foxx, who sends up his tough-guy image as an ineffective hit man. And Foxx’s Miami Vice co-star Farrell displays comic chops as a substance-addicted gimp with a comb-over.
But crucially, Horrible Bosses is let down by central combination of Bateman, Sudeikis and Day, a trio that lacks the chemistry required to anchor the film sympathetically. Despite obvious effort, the dense plotting and macho bravado marks Gordon’s film out as a demotion for a talented workforce.
General release from Fri 22 Jul.