Horrible Bosses isn’t Horrible

The comedy veers from funny-uncomfortable into just uncomfortable quite a few times, but the underlying message, and the general likeability of and chemistry between the leads (Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, and Jason Sudeikis) slips this low-brow comedy just barely into the “go see” category.

Note: one of the major storylines of the movie focuses on sexual harassment in the workplace. If this is triggering for you, do not see the movie. It is a major part of the film.

The premise of the movie is simple. Three high school buddies, Nick (Jason Bateman), Dale (Charlie Day), and Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) have terrible bosses. Nick’s boss is Dave (Kevin Spacey), a sadistic, tightly wound man who tricks Nick into working obscene hours by suggesting it may result in a large promotion. Dave takes the promotion for himself and threatens to ruin Nick’s career if he doesn’t continue performing at top speed. Dale faces constant, blatant, extremely-uncomfortable-to-watch sexual harassment from his boss Julia (Jennifer Aniston), an apparently sex-craved dentist. On top of the harassment, she threatens to break up his engagement by telling his fiancée that he slept with her. Kurt had a great boss – until he died of a heart attack and his coke-head, irresponsible son, Bobby (Colin Farrell), takes over the business and threatens to run it into the ground. The guys, chained to their jobs by a bad economy and blackmailing bosses, decide that the only thing to be done is to kill those bosses.

I will be upfront with you all – I was not really sure I wanted to see this movie after I saw the trailer. I was particularly worried about how the movie would handle Dale’s storyline. After all, isn’t a MAN being sexually harassed by a SEXY, SEXY LADY not actually harassment and just hilarious??? OK, I think I can take my tongue out of my cheek now. While there was supposed to be some humor in how outrageous Julia’s behavior was, no one in my theater laughed at this part. There were some problematic elements to how this storyline developed (like trying to play sexual harassment for laughs), but overall, I was surprised by how much better it was than I expected. Dale was always clear that he considered his boss’s behavior harassment – it wasn’t sexy, and it made him uncomfortable, unhappy, and desperate to find a new job. His friends did blow off his complaints, but they eventually got on his side (eventually being after Julia tries to have sex with Dale on his anesthetized fiancée’s body, so…). Even though it included many a cringe-inducing moment, I ended up being overall OK with this plotline.

What I liked best about the movie, however, was the way that it made clear how incredibly in control “bosses” are. Average workers are stuck in their shit jobs and there is nothing they can do. For instance, when Nick’s boss decides to take the promotion that Nick was working towards and just give himself one big, fancy job, it really echoed (and magnified) the loss of promotions, job opportunities, and general upward mobility in many careers. During one scene, when the friends are at a bar, they run into an old buddy who had worked at Lehman. He tells them that the economy is so bad that he can’t find another job and had to move back home (and resort to prostitution, but that’s another kettle of fish). Kurt, who was considering finding another job, realizes then that he is stuck where he is.  The take-home message is that if things at work suck, the workers are almost powerless to change things. The movie talked about the recession through the eyes of white men, but well; it did capture some of the zeitgeist.

The bumbling, Three Stooges-esque physical comedy (Dale gets smacked an awful lot, like Curly) works in the movie, and Dale dancing in the car while high on cocaine to “That’s Not My Name” by the Tingtings (a song they used to play at Express when I worked there) just made me absolutely lose it. Best car dancing scene ever, but, you know, given my personal experience with the song, I might be biased. However, the attempts at creating deep characters failed pretty much completely. No one really learned anything from this movie, but it was sure exciting to watch them make as many mistakes as possible. And oh man, they really didn’t need to play that terrible song “How Do You Like Me Now” by The Heavy over and over again. What is this? A Toyota commercial? Actually, with all the Prius talk (and the surprisingly large role that car plays in the movie), maybe it was.

If you’re looking for something super-fresh, I’d stay away from this, but if you have unresolved anger issues towards your job/boss, maybe go ahead and give it a try. It could be cathartic.

Has anyone here seen it? If so, what did you think? How do you think they handled Jamie Foxx’s character? If you haven’t seen it, what are some boss comedies you’ve enjoyed?

6 thoughts on “Horrible Bosses isn’t Horrible”

  1. Mr. Blue wants to see it. I’m wary that the Jaime Foxx character might annoy me. Really, three white guys turn to the black dude when they want to commit a crime? I hope it’s not portrayed that way. Either way I don’t think I’ll be rushing to the theatre on this one.

    1. That is completely legitimate and t it made me think more about why I saw the film differently. Ultimately, I wonder how much of that difference was due to the audience reaction. The parts that depicted sexual harassment were uncomfortable, painful to watch, and in the theater I went to, completely devoid of laughs. If anyone had laughed during those parts, if those parts had been treated like the joke/punchline, I bet I would have come out with a different read on the movie.

  2. My bf and I saw this last weekend and thought it was hilarious. We were laughing the entire time. I didn’t find the sexual harassment story line uncomfortable. Her actions were clearly exaggerated for laughs. It definitely is the case though where sexual harassment against a guy is funny just like guys getting naked in movies is all for laughs. I still think it was accurate in having the guy being harassed uncomfortable while all the buddies thought it was awesome.

    But definitely a hilarious movie.

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