Let me explain: In 1980’s “Nine to Five” you got a very funny and insightful ensemble comedy about a group of female employees getting even with an abusive, sexist male boss. In 2009’s “The Hangover” you got a raucous ensemble comedy that most critics and audiences loved (but that I found smutty, juvenile, and over-the-top). “Horrible Bosses” takes the best humor of “Nine to Five” and mixes it with some of the crudity and male bonding of “The Hangover”; yet despite the barrage of vulgarity and nonstop profanities in “Horrible Bosses,” its ensemble acting and ironic premise manage to a small degree to overcome its general inanities. It’s about as funny a black comedy as you’ll find these days, which isn’t saying a lot, but at least the movie is halfway watchable.
So, why “halfway”? Let me explain further. Simply, some sections of the film are funnier than others. The exposition is funniest of all, the first third of the film; the potential solution to the conflict, the middle of the film, is amusing in part; and the concluding third of the story is so overstated and silly it hardly gets off the ground.
Here’s the deal: We’ve got these three buddies living in L.A., all in their mid-to-late thirties, single, and straight. OK, right there you’ve got something of a stretch. I mean, what are the odds of three straight friends as old as they are never having married? But more important than their being single, which is simply a plot convenience, is that they all work for genuinely terrible bosses.
The first character we meet is Nick Hendricks (Jason Bateman), who is trying to get ahead in a financial firm. His boss is Dave Harkin (Kevin Spacey), who expects Nick to arrive at the office at 6 a.m., not a minute later, work until 6 p.m. every weekday, and then come in on weekends. Nick describes Harkin as a “total f….ing asshole,” which he is.
Next, we meet Kurt Buckman (Jason Sudeikis), an account manager at a chemical company, a fellow who actually likes his boss, the “sweetest man” he ever knew, until the old guy dies of a heart attack and leaves the company to Bobby (an unrecognizable Colin Farrell), his “dipshit, cokehead son.” Bobby is a certifiable sleazeball lunatic.
Then, there’s Dale Arbus (Charlie Day), a dental technician working for a nymphomaniacal dentist, Dr. Julia Harris (Jennifer Aniston), who is always making inappropriate, unwanted sexual advances toward him. Now, this one is problematical because if you’re a male member of the audience you might wonder what so upsets Dale about a beautiful woman, boss or no, wanting to make love with him all the time. But Dale, you see, tries to be faithful to his fiancée. Fair enough. Besides, he resents his boss blackmailing him into sex by threatening to let people know he’s a registered sex offender if he refuses her requests. He’s got a conviction on his record for exposing himself in a school yard, a charge he denies but which nonetheless sticks. This is, of course, another nod to “The Hangover,” which featured a child molester as one of its main characters, and it’s another blatant example of Hollywood imitating even the worst attributes of other popular films.
Still, it’s the introduction of these characters, their bonding (as in “The Hangover”) and their problems that are pretty humorous and set up a good second act. The buddies decide to murder their bosses. And the guy they finally go to (it isn’t easy finding a hit man on-line) is the best character in the movie: Dean “MF” Jones (Jamie Foxx). If Foxx had been one of the main characters, it no doubt would have made for a much funnier picture from beginning to end.
It’s the final third of the film that lets it down, it’s so overblown. The three guys suddenly turn into bumbling idiots, behaving so stupidly they make the Three Stooges look like Einsteins. Their actions are so absurd, the movie ends up more frustrating and annoying than comical.
That last part is quite a letdown for an otherwise entertaining comedy that before the final shenanigans only a stream of dirty words tended to mar. It seems as though the studio had just let the director, Seth Gordon, known mainly for TV work like “The Office,” loose in a candy store, where he could use all the childish profanity that television wouldn’t allow him to use. And I suppose the fact that “The Hangover” featured smut and obscenities meant he had to do it, too. What’s sad is that since “Horrible Bosses” did well at the box office, I guess he made the right decision. Maybe it says something about today’s audiences.
Here’s another thing: The three leads–Bateman, Sudeikis, and Day–are enjoyable-enough chaps, but they are hardly showstoppers. They are more like TV folk, without much individuality. It’s the more-experienced screen actors–Spacey, Farrell, Aniston, and Foxx–who get the juicier parts and carry the day. I would much rather have seen a movie about these antagonists, these villains if you will, than about the rather common, mundane main characters.
In any case, we get what we get in “Horrible Bosses,” which at least has a few good spots in it and a pleasant-enough cast to carry the day. While it may only be an average comedy, derivative of better things, these days it appears we have to be thankful for what’s available.
The New Line video engineers use MPEG-4/AVC encoding and separate dual-layer BD50’s to transfer the movie to Blu-ray discs in a regular theatrical version and an extended cut that adds about eight more minutes to the mix. In either case, you’ll find a 2.40:1 aspect ratio, with a picture quality that is slightly soft and blurred by the best HD standards. It may be exactly what the original print looked like; I don’t know, not having seen the movie in a theater. In addition, you’ll find deep colors, if sometimes with skin tones too dark or orangish, and reasonably solid black levels.
The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound does a terrific job with the midrange, rendering dialogue smoothly and cleanly. However, it doesn’t have much else to do, given that the surrounds only replicate a touch of musical ambience, and the bass and treble don’t sound particularly well extended.
This Combo Pack contains three discs, providing the movie on Blu-ray, DVD, and Ultraviolet digital copy, which seems a little excessive to me, but if you really like the film, I guess it’s nice to have it in multiple formats. After all, you never know how many times you’ll want to watch it or where you’ll be when the urge comes over you. You could get caught in a snowstorm with only your iPhone and have a sudden craving to fill the time with a repeat viewing of “Horrible Bosses.” Who knows.
So, disc one contains the extended version of the film on Blu-ray, with little else. English is the only spoken language, with French, Spanish, and Portuguese subtitles; English captions for the hearing impaired; and ten scene selections.
Disc two contains the theatrical version of the film on Blu-ray with an array of extras. The featurette “My Least Favorite Career,” five minutes, provides reminiscences by the cast and director on their own worst bosses. “Surviving a Horrible Boss,” six minutes, continues with the cast and director discussing how to deal with a horrible boss. “Being Mean Is So Much Fun,” seven minutes, has the actors who play the bosses explaining how it felt to be so mean. Following those items are about ten minutes of deleted scenes that include an alternate title sequence. And things conclude with “The Making of the Horrible Bosses Soundtrack”; trailers and promos at start-up; English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese spoken languages; French, Spanish, and Portuguese subtitles; English captions for the hearing impaired; ten scene selections; and BD-Live access.
Disc three contains the theatrical version of the film on DVD, along with the same spoken languages, subtitles, and captions found on disc two, but no featurettes.
Finally, the set includes a slipcover for a BD keep case with an inner sleeve, and an Ultraviolet digital copy access code. What, you ask, is an “Ultraviolet digital copy”? According to Warners, it “allows you to collect movies & TV shows and watch them at home or on-the-go, using streaming or permanently downloaded copies. You can enjoy Ultraviolet movies on devices such as smartphones, PCs and in the near-future Internet connected Blu-ray players and TVs.”
Anyway, there are portions of “Horrible Bosses” that are funny, some exchanges of dialogue that are clever, and some acting that, while clichéd, is amusing to watch. It’s too bad the screenwriters felt compelled to litter the script with so many crudities, expletives, and exaggerations in their obvious attempt to give audiences what they must have felt audiences wanted. I mean, if it seemed to delight moviegoers in “The Hangover,” it must be what everyone needs, no?