Horrible Bosses: Comedy Starring Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Anniston, Colin Farrell

“Horrible Bosses” pulls together one of the year’s finest comedy casts.   The film stars, in addition to the bumbling trio of Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, and Jason Sudeikis, Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Anniston, and Colin Farrell as their evil employers, plus choice cameos from the likes of Donald Sutherland, Jamie Foxx, and Bob Newhart. With the supportive direction of Seth Gordon, everyone seems to be having a good time here, as a blooper reel with the closing credits proves.

Bateman excels as the straight man of the bunch, but it is Day, best known until now for his work on the TV series “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” who owns this movie. He basically has the Zach Galifianakis spot in the trio, but Day is at once more manic and more endearing, with a lovably high-pitched, cartoonish voice.

The film’s whip-smart screenplay, by fresh talent Michael Markowitz, John Francis Daley, and Jonathan M. Goldstein, has a lot to do with the actors’ level of enjoyment. The screenwriters capture well something of the current workplace zeitgeist while throwing in plenty of one-liners that stick and keeping things always moving at a good clip toward comedic chaos.

Spacey gets one of the best lines, the most likely one here to get canonized: “You can’t win a marathon without putting Band-Aids on your nipples.” This is how he tries to motivate a disgusted Bateman to work longer and longer hours and weekends.

One gets the sense that these writers may have heard of Billy Wilder and possibly even seen movies like “The Apartment” (1960). Of course, “Horrible Bosses” is nasty in a way that Wilder probably could never have imagined, but the blunt intelligence behind the nastiness can be traced back to the master.

Several of the best laughs in the film come from clever film references. One key joke, built around Alfred Hitchcock’s “Strangers on a Train” (1951), reassures us that we are most thankfully not stuck in “The Hangover Part II” anymore.

That said, there is plenty to offend in the R-rated “Horrible Bosses,” a good chunk of it involving racial stereotypes. For the most part, however, the screenwriters have a nice way of turning those stereotypes on their heads.

Foxx, for instance, appears as a hardened ex-prisoner, who gives the three stooges questionable criminal advice. But when we finally find out what Foxx was in for, it is a nice surprise that upends his image.

At the heart of “Horrible Bosses” is a question that many viewers have asked themselves: how much shit is one willing to take at work, especially from one’s boss? The close-to-middle-aged idiots at the center of this movie each reach their limit at about the same time and become committed to the joint venture of murdering their three respective bosses in cold blood.

They conveniently do not see any other way out of their predicaments. The option of finding new jobs becomes null and void for them when they run into an old friend who’s been let go from Lehman Brothers and is now so desperate to find new work that he is dispensing hand jobs in local bars.

Problem is, apart from their outrage, furtive fantasies, and the necessarily shallow knowledge, acquired from watching seasons of “Law & Order,” the trio has no qualifications, no experience, and no aptitude for the assassination business.  Ineed, a good deal of the humor derives from the fact that the men never have much of a coherent plan. And as they are making it up as they go along, things go uproariously wrong, taking on a dangerous life of their own.  The plot contains lots of twists and turns, and genuine mayhem ensues, not to mention that Spacey turns out to be several times more horrible than we had originally believed.

Of the bosses, Kevin Spacey and particularly Jennifer Aniston fare best as bad guys, Colin Farrell slightly less so, though he works hard and has some good moments.

Anniston was quite charming in the hit TV series “Friends.” Though she is the only actor of this series to have enjoyed a viable movie career, it took her time to develop as an actress and comedienne on the big screen. Having worked steadily, Anniston shows great improvement, and “Horrible Bosses,” in which she is well cast as a sexy-crazed boss, defined by what mainstream culture considers to be a male appetite, may feature her best work to date.   In this picture, she relishes the chance to let loose with obscenities, in a part that opens her range of possible future roles.

What makes this film so funny and the similarly themed “Hangover Part II,” also about the foibles of “regular white guys,” such a slog? The IQ of the writing has to be the deciding factor.

Production values here are reasonable for a comedy aimed at a wide audience. Gordon keeps things point-and-shoot plain, although he does throw in some tasteful “love letter to Los Angeles” shots.

Written by Jeff Farr and Emanuel Levy


Nick Hendricks – Jason Bateman

Dale Arbus – Charlie Day

Kurt Buckman – Jason Sudeikis

Dave Harken – Kevin Spacey

Dr. Julia Harris, D.D.S. – Jennifer Aniston

Bobby Pellitt – Colin Farrell

Dean “Motherfucker” Jones – Jamie Foxx


A New Line Cinema release.

Directed by Seth Gordon.

Written by Michael Markowitz, John Francis Daley, and Jonathan M. Goldstein.

Produced by Brett Ratner and Jay Stern.

Cinematography, David Hennings.

Editing, Peter Teschner.

Original Music, Christopher Lennerts.

Running time: 97 minutes.