Horrible Bosses Review
Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis plays a trio of friends since high school. Each works and each hates their boss, hence the title. Bateman has to put up with Kevin Spacey, who continually humiliates him and passes him over for promotion. Day plays a dental assistant who suffers from daily sexual harassment at the hands of Jennifer Aniston. And Sudeikis used to have the best boss in the world (a quick cameo from Donald Sutherland), but following his fatal attack now has to contend with his son, played by Colin Farrell in a terrifying wig. Farrell’s problem, as a massive onscreen intertitle helpfully points out, is that he’s a “dipshit cokehead”.
This situation remains for much of Horrible Bosses’ first third, thus prompting scene after scene of Farrell and, in particular, Aniston getting to play against type and ham things up immensely. Spacey does too, but we’ve seen this kind of shtick from him before, notably in Swimming with Sharks where he played an obnoxious movie producer. The humour, of course, is derived from this anti-typecasting; the idea being that it’s incredibly funny to find Aniston talking about her “pussy” in explicit terms or Farrell wandering around whilst wearing a fake gut to match his ridiculous fake hairline. Thankfully the indulgent behaviour only occupies the first half-hour or so, at which point the plot switches to a convoluted comedy revenge thriller in which our three ‘heroes’ attempt to do away the banes of their lives.
What we have then is essentially a modern-day reworking of Nine to Five, albeit with a gender twist and without a single concession to topicality. Whatever its flaws - and, for me, there were a number - Colin Higgins’ 1980 film at least contained some freshness owing to its take on male chauvinism, no matter how broad that take ultimately was. Horrible Bosses, which is just as broad, does make a passing nod to the collapse of the Lehman Brothers, but this is basically as a plot tool to illustrate the current state of the jobs market and therefore the inability of any of our leads to simply quit rather than turn to murder. Indeed, the film is happier just to borrow the basics and the fantasy revenge sequences, here in the form of Bateman throwing Spacey out of a fifth-storey window to the sound of the Beastie Boys.
There is another influence and it comes in the form of The Hangover. As the revenge plot becomes more complicated and convoluted - someone else gets murdered; the police get involved; a series of coincidences end up connecting various disparate characters - it’s hard not to recall the similarly wayward construction of the 2009 comedy hit. We even get bizarre cameos from the likes of Jamie Foxx and Ioan Gruffudd - the former as a character named Motherfucker Jones, the latter as a male prostitute with a very particular kink. As with the performances by Aniston and Farrell, it’s the unlikely that is played upon, and indeed indulged. If you find something funny about the name Motherfucker Jones, then that’s fair enough. But the likelihood (I hope!) is that you don’t.
Similarly recalling The Hangover is the fact that Bateman, Day and Sudeikis are essentially playing adults as children. Their behaviour is that of men lost in, and confused by, the world and so in order to cope they act no different that a bunch of kids would if Horrible Bosses was reconstructed as a teen movie. (The trio could easily be supplanted by the three leads from Superbad, say, with little discernible difference in tone or manner.) Once again, however, this appears to be the extent of the joke and as such, despite their backgrounds in hit television comedies (Arrested Development, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Saturday Night Live, respectively) they aren’t really allowed to bring too much to the film. As the end credit outtakes clearly demonstrate, they undoubtedly had fun on the set, but that rarely translates into Horrible Bosses itself. Indeed, as one critic once said of Cannonball Run II, if the outtakes are funnier than the film itself, you know you are in trouble.
Horrible Bosses has been released by Warner Bros in two separate editions: a triple-play option containing Blu-ray, standard DVD and digital copy; and a standalone DVD. It is the latter under review here. Unfortunately this standard definition release is noticeably inferior, not only in regards to the obvious limitations in presentation, but also as we find the theatrical cut of the film, as opposed to the “totally inappropriate edition” found on the Blu, and find a complete lack of extra features. (Dave has since reviewed the Blu-ray and its extras. That review can be found here.)
In terms of presentation, here we find the original 2.4:1 aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement and a DD5.1 rendering of the soundtrack alongside a number of other 5.1 foreign language options (see sidebar). The print used is expectedly clean, but the transfer appears a little boosted. There’s some prominent edge enhancement on display and during certain scenes (particularly those harshly lit settings such as Bateman and Spacey’s work environment) this produces an especially ugly look. It’s worth pointing out, however, that Horrible Bosses was shot digitally using Panasonic Genesis cameras, which may perhaps explain these occasional harsher moments. Indeed, at times the digital nature is abundantly clear, at others things look more agreeably film-like. As for the soundtrack, here we find a crisp and clean offering with nothing untoward. It copes as well with the dialogue as it does the occasion burst of the Beastie Boys. There are also a number of subtitles options which can be found in the sidebar on the left of your screen.