Horrible Bosses – Review

Horrible Bosses (2011)

Directed by Seth Gordon. With Jason Bateman, P.J. Byrne, Steve Wiebe ,Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston, Jamie Foxx, Jason Sudeikis, Donald Sutherland.

This is one of those comedies that should have been a lot funnier than in fact it was. For some reason the makers behind “Horrible Bosses” seem to assume that just having over-the-top profanity and crass dialogue (especially when it’s from somebody we are not used to hear swearing so much) is enough to make your audience laugh: this might have work (arguably) 18 years ago with a film like Clerks, but time have certainly moved on and today comedies need more than just a few f**ks and c**ks jokes (even the first Hangover, which this film clearly is trying to emulate, had a lot more twists and surprises in its plot and relied on actual characters as opposed to just having them swearing).

I want to stress, I’m certainly not a puritan. I do swear too, more often than I probably should, and I do believe that some big, (sometimes even inventive) profanity, used at the right moment in a film, can be very effective and quite funny too. But when a film that calls itself a comedy goes on over 10 minutes without a single good laugh and then tries to compensate its lack of good jokes by simply adding gratuitous vulgarity, then you know there’s something wrong with it and it all just feels like a rather pathetic affair.

I am actually a little annoyed with”Horrible Bosses”. Potentially it had a lot going for it: an interesting premise which we can all sympathise with (At some point or another we all had a horrible boss who we just couldn’t stand), an impressive cast packed with big names and one of the most inspired advertising campaign of the year. Unfortunately despite all these promises, the actual pay off is actually rather disappointing and in the end the film fails strike a chord and registers just around the average line.

For a start the premise is completely wasted by having these bosses being so over-the-top that in the end they just become absurd two-dimensional caricatures. Sadly this isn’t “the office” (UK or US version): there’s no subtlety or wit, nor those beautifully observed characters or situations we can all relate to. The gags and twists (very spare in the first half) might be fun to describe to a friend but they are certainly not as funny when they are translated up the screen.

The theatre I went to see this was pretty full and the silence during most of the jokes (as I said, especially in the first hour) was quite deafening: it almost made me feel a bit embarrassed for the film itself…

Even its potentially stellar cast is wasted: Kevin Spacey plays exactly the same character he did in Swimming with Sharks and yet with less than 1/10 of screen time, this time he only manages make a caricature out of it. Same goes for Jennifer Anniston who seem to be trying so hard to make her character the complete opposite of her girl-next-door screen persona we are so used to see, that she’s forgotten to make her believable too. She’s really not scary at all! Colin Farrell is basically invisible, not just because the make-up makes him look like a different person, but because he’s probably got about 5 minutes. Surely he must have had a lot of fun in making such an over the top character, sadly none of that fun comes across. Jamie Foxx makes the most of his brief appearance as the ‘murder consultant’ named Motherfucker Jones (once again, a joke which might have been funny and yet is stretched beyond anyone’s patience, including the terribly un-funny reason behind the name), but he just adds very little to the film.

“Horrible Bosses” is really about the trio of ‘hangover-style’ ‘type-of-friends’, which unfortunately are a lot less interesting and just as under-developed than their bosses. Furthermore director Seth Gordon seems unable to draw from the potentially great chemistry of his three main actors (we only get a glimpse of how much funnier it could all have been if they had been allowed more room for improvisation, in the obligatory outtakes reel during the end credits).

Jason Bateman is the best thing in it, with his trademark deadpan humour and his usual underplayed charm, which unfortunately can’t save him from another under-written role (Obviously the writer seem to prefer spending more time setting up the ultra-complicated plot, than making us care about their characters).
In the end neither Batman or his co-stars, nor the admiringly few good jokes in the second half of the film can save “horrible bosses”. It’s just not funny enough!

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