Friday, July 8, 2011

Reel Thoughts: Criss-Cross

Who doesn’t smile when they think of getting revenge on a “horrible boss”? Neither as bad as I feared nor as good as it could have been, the star-studded black comedy Horrible Bosses (which opens today) is a gender-swapped 9 to 5 for the recession era.

Three pals, played by Jason Sudeikis, Jason Bateman and Charlie Day, each have bosses from hell who make their lives miserable. Nick’s (Bateman) is by far the worst, a megalomaniac named Davis Harken, played to malevolent perfection by Kevin Spacey. David delights in humiliating Nick while dangling a never-to-be promotion in his face. He even made him stay at work late when his “Gam-Gam” was dying.

Kurt (Sudeikis) loves his boss (Donald Sutherland) but hates his sleaze ball son Bobby, played by a gleefully slumming Colin Farrell in a nasty comb-over. Guess who kicks the bucket, leaving the chemical company in the hands of Bobby the tool? Dale (Day) gets no sympathy from his pals about his boss troubles. Slapped with a “Registered Sex Offender” label for urinating in an empty playground at midnight, Dale takes the only job he can get, which is as a dental assistant for a voracious man-eater named Julia Harris, DDS, hilariously played by Jennifer Aniston. Her non-stop sexual come-ons are more than the meek and mousy Dale can take.

A drunken night together inspires the trio to plan taking out their troublesome terrors, leading to a comedy of errors that is an entertaining diversion for the audience. Jamie Foxx has a funny cameo as the guys’ “murder consultant” named Motherfucker Jones.

Horrible Bosses is one of those juvenile adult comedies like Hall Pass, Bad Teacher, The Hangovers 1 and 2 and Bridesmaids. It is big on lowbrow laughs and short on character development, especially for the females in the cast. I can see why Aniston enjoyed her role, getting to look gorgeous and basically emasculate Day the whole movie long, but I’m surprised that she didn’t in turn ask for some miniscule nods at a character other than the Skinamax vixen she’s asked to play. Sudeikis’ lothario routine seems like delusional posturing, yet his character scores with every woman he wants, which is all of them.

If you accept that Horrible Bosses is a bit of white male wish fulfillment and enjoy it as such, you’ll have a lot of laughs. There are enough terrible bosses out there to make that part of the story universal. However, I don’t see the film ever inspiring much praise among women, straight or gay. There are so many gay male sex jokes, as is usual in this kind of film, that gay men may enjoy all the subtext flying around. A case can even be made that Dale’s revulsion at Aniston is due to him being in the closet.

Reel Thoughts Rating: B

UPDATE: Horrible Bosses is now available on DVD and Blu-rayfrom

Review by Neil Cohen, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Phoenix's Echo Magazine.

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