Three friends (Jason Bateman, Jason Sudekis and Charlie Day) decide that the best way to deal with their respective horrible bosses (Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell and Jennifer Aniston) is to bump them off. Seeing as how they’re just three regular guys with no idea how to actually go about such a thing, they hire a “murder consultant” (Jamie Foxx) to mentor them. Hilarity ensues. Or, at least, it SHOULD have.

Horrible Bosses has a great concept and a great cast (the bosses, in particular, are all hilarious characters, and the actors playing them are clearly having a ball), but for some reason those two things never really mesh into a memorable movie. There are some slight laughs here and there, but overall this has to be considered a disappointment, given the potential on-hand.

One of my biggest complaints is how quickly and easily these three guys accept the idea of becoming murderers – especially Bateman’s character, who is supposed to be the moral compass of the group, but only takes a few extra minutes to convince before he’s right along for the ride. Now, I understand this is a comedy, and you might think I’m just not in the spirit of it by not allowing myself to take that logical leap. But my point is that the movie probably would have been a lot funnier if it had allowed the comedy to come from the guys wrestling with this idea and then trying to will themselves to go through with it. That would probably provide a lot more laughs than the crass slapstick the movie instead resorts to once the trio sets about on their mission, like spilling cocaine and getting high on it while snooping around one of the bosses homes (a scene that was actually already done better in Corky Romano – and no, I can’t believe I’m saying that either). The laughs here should deride from the absurdity of regular guys trying to be murderers, not just the wacky arguments and hijinks they get up to afterwards.

I think this movie probably would have been a lot better if it had been made in the ’80s, back when comedies were allowed to be more about their high concepts and less about improv-style verbal bantering. In the post-Apatow comedy world, all comedies now focus on witty conversations between the characters, which are often off-topic from the plot of the film. That can be fine in movies with simple ideas like a 40-year-old trying to lose his virginity, or a slacker suddenly having to prepare for fatherhood. But it doesn’t seem right for Horrible Bosses, which really should have played more like an extremely dark-comedy. I mean, yeah, the bosses are bad people, but what these guys are trying to do is completely reprehensible and unforgivable. That the movie doesn’t want to admit that feels odd and even somewhat uncomfortable. It only gets sightly away with it because of how likable the three lead actors are – but again, that’s why I would have liked to have seen more of them being pushed to the edge by their decisions.

Horrible Bosses is not a movie so bad that you will regret watching it. It’s an easily digested waste of 90 or so minutes, with a few fun performances and at least one great one (Colin Farrell, whose character is definitely not given enough screen-time). Still, all the pieces seemed to be in place for something in the vein of classic crimed comedies like A Fish Called Wanda or Arsenic & Old Lace. Instead, Horrible Bosses will most likely be mostly forgotten about in a few years. Maybe somewhere down the line someone will take another stab at the idea and actually be willing to push it the dark extremes it necessitates.



This review was originally posted at Trevor Likes Movies on November 5th, 2011.