It’s a terrific premise for a farce because – who hasn’t had a horrible boss? And how much abuse is an employee willing to take before he actually considers committing coldly calculated murder?
That’s the dilemma faced by a trio of likeable losers who are trapped in workplace agony, a situation underscored by the arid job market. Uptight Nick Hendricks (Jason Bateman) is constantly humiliated by sadistic CEO Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey, channeling “Swimming With Sharks”). After his beloved mentor (Donald Sutherland), unexpectedly dies, Kurt Buckman (Jason Sudeikis) finds himself at the mercy of his coked-up, amoral son, Bobby Pellit (almost unrecognizable Colin Farrell), who inherits the family’s chemical business. And whiny Dale Arbus (Charlie Day) is a dutiful dental technician who is sexually harassed on a daily – if not hourly – basis by predatory Dr. Julia Harris (Jennifer Aniston).
Desperate but admittedly inept, they each pay $5,000 to an ex-con, Dean “Motherf***er” Jones (Jamie Foxx), who advises them how to assassinate their tormentors. Of course, lacking experience, knowledge and basic common sense, the three stooges bungle their way into one misadventure after another, emerging predictably victorious.
Writers Mark Markowitz, John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein set up the nasty, if contrived, workplace situations, including sitcom-like one-liners and unexpected cinematic references – like Alfred Hitchcock’s “Strangers on a Train.” After the set-up, however, the screenplay seems to flounder, particularly in a motel urination sequence. Nevertheless, director Seth Gordon (“Four Christmases,” “Freakonomics”) is savvy enough to let his competent cast display their expert comedic timing, particularly Jamie Foxx as the tough ex-con ‘consultant.’
Despite working only five days on the film, Jennifer Aniston has been garnering the most publicity because of her blatantly sexy attire and brunette wig. Aniston conscientiously, if self-consciously, spews smut and obscenities, obviously playing the vamp against her charming, carefully cultivated, good-girl “Friends” TV image.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Horrible Bosses” is an outrageously crude, silly 6 – but be prepared for rampant misogyny and gross vulgarity. And there’s a blooper reel that runs during the concluding credits.