The recent spate of recession-inspired films makes me wonder whether the screenplays for those films were written after the recession began or if they were written before the recession and rewritten to include references to the recession. After seeing LARRY CROWNE and HORRIBLE BOSSES, my suspicion is of the latter. Now I don’t mean to compare HORRIBLE BOSSES to the unwatchable LARRY CROWNE because HORRIBLE BOSSES is leagues better than that Tom Hanks movie. Its just that the portrayals of economic hardship I see in these movies feels thrown in as a last measure to make the film more timely and to better connect with the audience. HORRIBLE BOSSES has a single scene that refers to the recession and it felt really out of place. Fortunately, this doesn’t detract from enjoyment of the movie and overall, HORRIBLE BOSSES is another fun, raunchy comedy that continues this summer’s string of dirty comedies (BRIDESMAIDS and BAD TEACHER being the other two films).

HORRIBLE BOSSES is about three friends (Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, & Jason Sudeikis) who work for 3 crazy, asshole bosses (Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston, Colin Farrell). Working for these people has made their lives so utterly miserable that they ultimately scheme to have their bosses killed. After a few failed attempts in finding a contract killer for hire, they finally run into Jamie Foxx, who agrees to help them kill their bosses for a fee.

The best comedies are usually those with a high concept and simple idea (GROUNDHOG DAY, GHOSTBUSTERS, MRS. DOUBTFIRE, FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF, THE BREAKFAST CLUB, and THE HANGOVER). The originality of the idea draws the audience in and it immediately grasps the concept. From there, the rest of the film’s success depends on execution and how funny the characters/situation are. HORRIBLE BOSSES has a great idea that we can all identify with. At one point or another in our lives, we have all worked for people who have made work into a disgusting living hell. The bosses in this film are over the top and display all the worst qualities you would find in a horrible boss. Together, they represent the entire spectrum of shitty bosses. Kevin Spacey is the self-centered, conniving corporate asshole who Jason Bateman works for. Jennifer Aniston is a horny, blackmailing dentist who Charlie Day works for as a dental assistant. Finally, we have Colin Farrell as the coked-out, ungrateful heir of a family-run business who inherits the business after his father (Donald Sutherland) dies of a heart attack. While Sutherland was alive, Jason Sudeikis had it perfect as he was set to take over the business from Sutherland. However, with the dad gone, Sudeikis has to deal with his retard dipshit son, who has no intention of letting Sudeikis run the business.

The first 20 minutes or so of the film go by at an entertaining and brisk pace as we witness just how horrible these bosses are to our hapless characters. You can tell the actors had a lot of fun chewing up the scenery and hamming it up. What’s more, given the bad job market and the economy, you buy into why our characters don’t/can’t quit their jobs. Their only options are to quit and brave looking for another job or put up with their bosses’ behaviors. Or kill them. It’s a good set-up for a story that unfortunately loses its momentum and gets into silly situations that seem to exist solely to set up a joke or sight gag or to allow our characters to engage in funny banter. For example, our characters decide to stake out their bosses houses and collect “evidence.” Evidence for what? Whatever plan our characters have purportedly hatched is unknown to the audience. That or just doesn’t make any sense at all. There are two scenes in particular where the characters break into Kevin Spacey’s and Colin Farrell’s houses to find whatever they can on their bosses. Considering that they plan to kill their bosses, I don’t know why they would need to gather any evidence. The only reason we have these scenes is so they can encounter a situation that spins out of control and provides the audience with laughs. Admittedly, these scenes are funny, but narratively, they don’t make any sense. However, the worst scene in the film occurs at the very end when (SPOILER ALERT) our characters are about to be framed by Kevin Spacey for killing Colin Farrell and just when the police proceed to arrest them, their vehicle’s GPS system has conveniently recorded and plays back Spacey’s admission that he killed Farrell. You can’t have a more blatant example of lazy storytelling than this.

And its this kind of storytelling that makes the film unmemorable. This is a film that could have really stood out with better attention toward telling a good story. I wanted to see a well thought-out plan devised by the characters to take out their bosses. Considering how worried they are about getting caught for murder, wouldn’t it make sense that they would have been overly cautious to ensure that their plan worked? The film should not have relied so much on providing us with comedy. It could have accomplished that as well as given us a compelling story with high stakes and a buildup that would keep the audience guessing as to whether or not the characters would succeed in their plan. But we get none of that. Story is pieced together in a haphazard fashion to serve the purpose of setting up a bunch of comedic moments.

What saves the film for me, however, is the likeability and chemistry of the three main characters. If it wasn’t for them, HORRIBLE BOSSES would have been dismissed as another summer failure. Unlike THE HANGOVER, you actually like these three guys despite the fact that they plan to murder some people. Like I said before, you sympathize with the characters’ predicament. Its something we all know and understand. Furthermore, even though they conspire to kill their bosses, our characters have redeeming qualities and characteristics that prevent them from being douchebags. They’re not materialistic, arrogant hipsters or callous assholes like the guys in THE HANGOVER came off being. These characters are hard-working, normal guys who want to be recognized for doing a good job. More importantly (for me, anyway), we are thankfully spared from seeing a character whose idea of comedy is screaming all the time like the dentist in THE HANGOVER.

Every actor does a fine job in this movie, but the Zach Galifianakis success story is undoubtedly Charlie Day. I’ve never seen It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia even though I’ve been told a thousand times to see it. But now after seeing Day owning the screen, I’ll be moving that show to the top of my Netflix queue. Day is great and he’s especially hilarious in two classic moments: the cocaine scene and a short scene where he’s sitting in a car singing to That’s Not My Name. I want to see more of Day, but please PLEASE Hollywood, do not put him in every single comedy for the next couple of years like you did with Galifianakis.

So is this a film worth paying a movie ticket for? No, but it is the perfect renter, especially with a big crowd of friends.

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