Movie Review: HORRIBLE BOSSES (Directed by Seth Gordon)

by Kevin Bowen on July 8, 2011

in Film

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Horrible Bosses pretends to be a movie for all people who hate their bosses, but really it’s a film for all people who hate film.

Directed by Seth Gordon and partly produced by Brett Ratner, it’s the a classic case of a movie that doesn’t seem that wretched, until you start to take it apart afterwards and realize how badly you wasted two hours. It has some funny moments, yes, but that barely hides the fact that it approaches a cultural disaster.


There isn’t a single moment in Horrible Bosses – an ensemble comedy about three dorks who decide to kill their obnoxious bosses – that is remotely cinematic. It has no eye whatsoever, nor any scale beyond sketch comedy.  It’s not surprising that director Gordon, since his well-received documentary  The King of Kong, has worked mainly in episodic television. There’s not a shot in the movie that doesn’t say “sitcom.”

Of course calling Horrible Bosses Bosses a sit-com is unfair to sitcoms. Even the average sitcom must create characters with a consistent personality and acceptable motives. Sometimes sitcom characters begin as a single joke, but sooner or later they get a mother and a father or maybe a quirky girlfriend. Jennifer Aniston’s Rachel on TV’s Friends had far more depth than Bosses’ randy dentist, a one-joke sketch comedy monster.

Would being pursued by a hot, sexually forward boss be enough to drive a man to murder?  That’s what we’re asked to believe about the dental assistant played by Charlie Day (from the minor TV hit It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia), a random comedy generator in the style of a poor man’s Zach Galifianakis. Why does it bother him? He loves his fiancée, of course! So if he wants to be with his gal forever, why does he risk the electric chair? And why does he spend all of his time plotting murder at the bar with his friends instead of half-watching Dancing with the Stars on the couch? Why, you almost get the sense that his fiancee exists as a flimsy prop so that he has a reason to hate his boss.


I usually value Jason Bateman’s put-upon-everyman-just-trying-to-hold-it-together routine. He’s quite good at it. But it may be reaching the point of being a signature tic rather than a fresh character. It also isn’t exactly a murderous personality type, even with a slimy, egotistical jerk of a corporate boss (Kevin Spacey).  The only boss here that might invite a murder plot is Colin Farrell’s cokehead. But after this film and Hall Pass, Saturday Night Liver Jason Sudeikis’ middle-aged horndog persona has taken a remarkably short time to seem stale.

By the way, isn’t conspiracy to commit murder still a crime? In the happily ever after ending, the cops seem remarkably cool with it.  Maybe they just want to leave the door open for future filmmakers to kill a similar project.

Horrible Bosses
rated R
now playing nationwide

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