by Tony Dayoub
Wonder why there's such a press blackout on pre-release reviews for this Friday's Horrible Bosses? Not even the reliable trade papers like Variety of The Hollywood Reporter have posted their thoughts as of this writing. Predictably, it has to do with one very basic reason. This highly anticipated comedy is just not that funny.
The film's premise is sound. Nick (Jason Bateman) is a victim of the recession era workplace's quest for maximum productivity. He slaves under Dave (Kevin Spacey), his insensitive superior, from 6 a.m. to "whenever," 7 days a week, under the false impression that there's a promotion waiting for him at the end of his ordeal. Nick's friend Dale (Charlie Day), an uneducated dental assistant, puts up with sexual harassment from his boss, Julia (Jennifer Aniston), for fear of trying to find another job in the dry market. And their buddy, Kurt (Jason Sudeikis)? Well he's lucky he only has to put up with his CEO's coke-snorting son, Bobby (Colin Farrell), but he loves working for Bobby's dad (Donald Sutherland).
But Dave ends up absorbing the Nick's expected VP position into his own. Julia takes things a little too far with Dale, threatening his new marriage engagement. And Bobby's dad dies of a sudden heart attack, leaving his son in charge of the company—and Kurt. So the three friends team up to murder their bosses, Strangers on a Train-style, after getting some tips from the shady "Muthaf**ka" Jones (Jaime Foxx).
Forget the nerve it takes to call your movie any variation on the word "Horrible" when you're opening it up to criticism (or not, as may be the case here). Horrible Bosses has the temerity to steal a virtually foolproof Hitchcock premise and still manage to sap it dry of any humor even given its inherent absurdity. Bateman flails playing whiny straight-man to the acerbic Sudeikis and Charlie "my only shtick is screaming my lines at the top of my exasperated lungs" Day. Spacey plays his character too straight, so that one confuses his unctuous executive with the actor's own oily persona. Aniston desperately chomps at any morsel of cougarishness the same way she deep-throats her banana in a provocative window striptease, evoking the desperation of an aging diva wanting to leave her mark on movies no matter what the humiliation. The only actor who leaves with any kind of goodwill is Farrell, whose combed-over, pigeon-chested Bobby Pellitt struts through every one of his scenes with the self-assurance of an actor who knows he's come up with an inspired comic creation. Wisely, his character doesn't outstay his welcome.
Otherwise, Seth Gordon (Four Christmases) labors at wringing any humor from his badly-timed comedic setups. The crutch of using product placement to elicit laughter is evident here. Why else would the filmmaker believe that employing OnStar as a deus ex machina would make for a good joke? And Kurt's propensity for non-sequiturs spurs Gordon to build an entire scene around the characters arguing whether this statement—"I’m going to bend her over a barrel and show her the 50 states!"—actually means something. It doesn't, and it's not funny either, so why waste a viewer's time?
Those hoping to see Aniston sex it up will be disappointed also. Like many of you, I, too, salivated at the prospect of finally seeing Aniston, the not-for-too-much-longer ageless star of Friends, doff her top in Horrible Bosses. It had been hinted that Aniston—ruthless in her pursuit of movie stardom after once dominating TV airwaves—would finally give her final frontier, onscreen nudity, a cursory exploration, at least. She'd be working in her comedic comfort zone with this raunchy summer movie. I'll save you the cost of a ticket by letting you know that Aniston ends up playing it coy. And the chance of me recommending that you give this witless, so-called comedy a try evaporates along with any opportunity of Aniston finally baring it all.
Horrible Bosses opens nationwide on Friday, July 8th.