Written by: Michael Markowitz, John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein
Starring: Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston, Colin Farrell, Donald Sutherland
All industries contain specialists who know how to operate within them, which eventually gets them promoted to supervising others. However, as seen across these various industries, being an expert does not guarantee you know how to actually work with people, which leaves many employees despising their bosses. Not having a boss you hate then becomes an anomaly, as a result. Horrible Bosses takes this idea of hating one’s boss but moves it up a level to the three protagonists wanting to kill them and actually trying to move forward with it.
Three friends, Nick (Jason Bateman), Dale (Charlie Day), and Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) all work in different industries but the trio each hates their respective bosses. Nick’s boss teases him along for a promotion while not giving it, Dale’s superior sexually harasses him, and Kurt’s supervisor is quite the degenerate. The three friends all reached their boiling point and wish to take them out for their own sanity.
In terms of being a fantasy film, Horrible Bosses plays out as wish-fulfillment for those who hate their superiors where these characters harbor negative feelings but actually have the gall with trying to carry out the deed. Bold on their part but the film has an uphill climb in trying to convince the audience exactly why these bosses are bad enough to be taken out permanently by these three characters. While Dale probably has the best case with a sexually harassing boss who threatens to blackmail him should he not have sex with her, but jumping to murder feels a bit extreme. It gets even worse when looking at the other situations with Nick and Kurt. Yes, their bosses demonstrate horrid behavior but horrible enough to deserve to die probably seems a bit drastic.
However, with all this being said, it’s what the plot is all about and the comedy involved with it makes this experiment play out with great comedic effect. The absurdity of actually trying to pull it off makes for this to be a fantasy and we just have to see how it all plays out. Despite some aspects of the film not aging well even on the date of its release, plenty still exists in this film to enjoy to earn it an overall positive rating.
On one hand, the idea of these three men actually trying to go out there and commit murder in cold blood is absolutely laughable and works as to what makes the film so funny. They can barely stand up for themselves in the workplace, so actually going out there and killing another person feels like a huge stretch, to say the least. The moments in which they attempt to carry out the deed and end up failing miserably because the act they’re trying to do is so terrible. It makes complete sense they would have trouble trying to actually carry these actions out seeing as it most certainly is murder but also, it does not in any way represent a smart thing to do. Having them mess up every opportunity becomes part of the entire point of the story.
The narrative does contain a rather unsavory aspect, which not only should not fly but also perpetuates something that should not be accepted in our society. It appears in struggles Date has with his boss, Dr. Julia Harris (Jennifer Aniston). Sexual harassment, no matter the gender, should not be accepted or even joked about but the idea of Dale refusing to have sex with her simply because she looks like Jennifer Aniston falls in line with an extremely dated perspective on sexual harassment done to men. It runs in line with the belief with stories of boys in school being statutorily raped by attractive teachers and older men boasting how they wish they could have been in that young kid’s shoes. Jokingly stated but with a wrinkle of truth, these individuals forget a child cannot give consent but they should enjoy it because of the attractiveness of the teacher. Harassment is harassment and just because the aggravator is gorgeous does not excuse the unwanted advances done by Dale’s superior. This deserves attention because it continues this harmful idea where men feel afraid of reporting sexual harassment due to being frightened of being seen less manly for complaining about advances from a beautiful woman. Media, even if a dumb comedy, normalizes behaviors.
Cast-wise this feature is stunning with the amount of talent brought together. The three main protagonists played by everymen like Sudeikis, Day, and Bateman add to them being easy to root for. However, the chef’s kiss in casting comes from the bosses with Jennifer Aniston wonderfully portraying an evil harasser as well as Colin Farrell with his bald spot, and Kevin Spacey as an egotistical maniac. In the case of Spacey, it may have just been him being himself and not actually acting. They each do a great job of selling their despicable features and become quite the adversaries for these characters in the best of ways.
While misguided with one of its plot points, Horrible Bosses has just enough humor to get it across the line. Its completely absurd premise turns out pretty much as well as you would expect when you have characters like these. The narrative plays into a feeling many employees have throughout their lives when confronted with terrible bosses and turns it into an absurdist comedy. A fun time overall.