Horrible Bosses

Revenge of the wage slaves


Horrible Bosses is one of those annoying movies—a buddy-raunch comedy of the proudly dumb and blithely nonsensical variety—that keeps you laughing in spite of yourself almost from beginning to end. Equally irritating, for purposes of critical pontification, is the fact that the lead actors appear to be having such great fun with their roles. So while I feel a little guilty recommending this shameless multiplex fodder, there's just no choice: I do.

The plot has an engaging comic clarity. Three late-30s professionals—Nick (Jason Bateman), Dale (Charlie Day), and Kurt (Jason Sudeikis)—have had it with their abusive bosses. Nick, who works in finance, can no longer endure the petty humiliations to which he's subjected by his manipulative overlord, Harken (Kevin Spacey). Dale, a dental assistant, is at the end of his tether with the raging sexual harassment of his boss, Dr. Julia Harris (Jennifer Aniston). And Kurt, until recently content with his job as a company manager, is exasperated when the owner's cokehead-wastrel son, Bobby (Colin Farrell), takes over after his father suddenly croaks. Since these are tough economic times, the guys are reluctant to spite their employers by quitting. So they decide to kill them.   

Their first attempt to arrange the rubouts takes them to a "wet work" specialist (Ioan Gruffudd) who is, let's say, all wrong for the job. Then, figuring that hitmen may be more numerous in a black neighborhood, they connect with a "murder consultant" called Motherfucker Jones (Jamie Foxx). It turns out that Motherfucker was actually born Dean Jones, but as he says, "I can't walk around with that Disney-ass name." In any case, he's a font of inventive suggestions, and the rest of the movie is of course a demonstration of the goofy ways in which the lads' lethal stratagems go wrong.

Bateman, Day, and Sudeikis manage the easy rapport of longtime friends. Bateman remains a master of the deadpan throwaway. (Sneaking into Bobby's house and surveying the vintage shag rug and satiny black bed sheets, he says, "It's like a douchebag museum.") Day, from the TV series It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, has a wheezy, over-wound delivery that recalls Bobcat Goldthwait at his most lovable. And Sudeikis, playing a simple good-natured hunk, brings an undaunted cheeriness to even the most inscrutable lines. ("I'd like to bend her over a barrel and show her the 50 states.") Spacey is always a treat to watch, of course, even when he's channeling the blazingly hostile boss he played in Swimming with Sharks. And Farrell—at first almost unrecognizable under a bulb-like prosthetic brow and a weedy comb-over—throws himself into his against-type role with rousing abandon. True, his character is a one-note gag machine, but the gags are good. (When Bobby talks about "trimming the fat" at the company, he means firing all the fat people.)

On the other hand, Aniston's character is so thoroughly implausible that it throws the movie's comic balance out of whack. The actress is a slinky brunette here, and her over-sexed dentist is such a rampant libertine ("I fingered myself so hard, I broke a nail") that you have to wonder how bad it could really be to have her as a boss—or why she'd ever set her sights on a dweeb like Dale. Then again, Aniston is clearly enjoying herself enormously, and you might wish she'd venture out beyond her rom-com comfort zone more often, if only in search of a more credible script than this one.  

It must also be said that the movie's broad satire of reverse sexual harassment is probably something that only male filmmakers might have devised; and the casual racism of some early scenes—although it's later stepped back as a mocking of white-boy cultural assumptions—might not seem all that side-splitting to a black audience.

Still, the picture has a fine rude energy, and director Seth Gordon sets up the laughs with gratifying efficiency. Horrible Bosses may not be the funniest film of the year, but it's the only really funny one opening this weekend. Surely a little gratitude is in order.

Kurt Loder is a writer living in New York. His third book, a collection of film reviews called The Good, the Bad and the Godawful, will be published in November by St. Martin's Press.


NEXT: James K. Pinkerton, on: "libertarian polemicists, whether they like it or not, will indeed be kept far from real-world politics and real-world victories"

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  1. In watching the trailer, it appears as though Spacey is essentially recreating his role from Swimming with Sharks. That alone makes it worth the price of admission.

    1. And having read the review now, I see that Loder already picked up on the swimming with sharks similarity, hardly groundbreaking, but I wanted to feel like I was contributing something worthwhile. Thanks for ruining my day Loder. At least I still was able to discover an MLS listing referencing a suicide by hanging five years ago and comments stating that the owner sees/hears the ghost of the deceased.

      1. without a link it doesn’t exist.

        1. PW protected MLS site, I will have to rest assured in my confirmation with mine own eyes.

          1. Alt+Print Screen, then post the screenshot to Flicker and link to it there.

  2. It certainly looks funnier than Zookeeper.

    1. Bamboo under the fingernails is funnier than Zookeeper

      1. You mean Rewarmed Turd?

  3. Going to see it on the off-chance that Charlie has a new song to sing.

    1. Charlie is the only thing that could get me to go see this; maybe Bateman too, but just for his Arrested Development work.

      I don’t trust Loder on comedies; he’s too accepting. I love stupid, but it has to be tempered with wit, which Charlie does perfectly on Always Sunny.

      1. I don’t understand people who don’t like Arrested Development. It’s like a clinic on how to do comedy.

        Henry Winkler jumping the shark on the docks?


        1. And a running gag about Hot-Cops. Classic.

        2. People who don’t like AD are usually too stupid to get it.

  4. Blehhh! Who cares?

    Rush (King of the Rednecks) gets more attention than this fuckhole.

    1. “Rush (King of the Rednecks) gets more attention than this fuckhole.”

  5. screen shot = Damn

  6. i don’t buy the term “reverse sexual harassment” any more than I buy the term ‘reverse racism’ . each implies that there is one “real” or at least default form, and the other is like … the opposite.

    it’s stupid.

    sexual harassment is sexual harassment and racism is racism. regardles of whether the offender is a member of the “oppressor clas”

    1. Maybe not with racism, but with sexual harassment, if it’s like 80+% male-to-female, then that’s pretty much a default.

      1. That ratio depends on your definition of sexual harassment.

      2. I thought the definition of sexual harassment was gender neutral? Is ‘reverse murder’ when a white person murders an african-american?

        1. It would make sense if murder was something that black people did solely to white people, and not the opposite, which is pretty true of racism with the parties reversed.

          1. Now that’s a very racist thing to assume. Why do you think whitey is the only race capable of being so racist?

          2. “which is pretty true of racism with the parties reversed.”

            You’ve clearly not grown up in a non-white neighborhood. I suggest you get out more.

      3. So fuck that 20%.

  7. I think I’ll go out for some milksteaks before seeing this.

    1. Boiled over hard, with the finest jelly beans…raw?

    2. [Hilarious ASIP reference]

  8. All movies with Jason Bateman should be reshot to replace Jason Bateman with either Steve Carrel or Ben Stiller…depending on the part.

    He is a good straight-man in Arrested Development but it never seems to work in movies.

    I always feel like “oh wow this is a funny movie” then when Bateman enters a scene. “oh yeah this is no better then a sitcom.”

    1. All movies with Jason Bateman should be reshot to replace Jason Bateman with either Steve Carrel or Ben Stiller…depending on the part.

      Ben Stiller? BEN STILLER? BEN STILLER?!

      You, sir, are a fucking idoit.

  9. I hope Reason debunks this.

    My favorite quote, “It’s tough to give up something that you’ve built your entire personality around.”

    Stupid stoners.

    1. Debunks…what? The truth?

    2. All his points are true except for the part in #1 when he says that addiction negates the “freedom argument.” The choice to smoke marijuana and take the risk of becoming addicted is a free one.

      1. setting aside the fact (not opinion) that marijuana is NOT addictive.

        it’s habit forming, but so is anything that people enjoy

        them’s the medical facts

      2. All points are wrong, except #2. And there he’s only right about the argument that it is a call to criminalize tobacco and alcohol. Everything else this moron spewed is utter bullshit.

        1. nope.avi

    3. He is really on a rant, and probably over does a bunch of it, but I have the same complaints more or less.

      I smoked a ton when I was younger, but discovered that for me, I liked it better when I didn’t smoke. Because of my experience, I fully support legalization….and have no problem that people just want to get high without going to jail.

      His medical MJ argument is one that really annoys the crap out of me. In WA we have voted to legalize MJ for medicinal use. I have several friends who have applied for, and received their medical cards. They gleefully giggle about the fact that they have this stupid card, and they don’t have any type of debilitating disease. One guy even started growing pot in his front yard.

      Yea….that’s gonna help get it legal for everyone.

      It’s the most annoying argument, because truly…there are people who have real diseases that are helped by this drug.

  10. Typical libertarian review. It’s “funny” when bosses are horrible and regular guys who play by the rules are driven to extremes just to get their lives back. You have no facts. You haven’t got a clue. You just have your RNC talking points, plus you ar ilitarut.

    1. So only libertarians see this movie as a comedy?

      Trolling or retarded, you decide!

    2. Retarded troll is retarded.

    1. Sandy Vagina Syndrome is on the rise.

    2. What is this site I dont even

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  13. I haven’t seen it yet I went to watch Transformers3 :o) this film must cost a Lot though I’d like to see the money go to more good causes like 10% of the profit from the film?

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  14. At first, I too was thrown by the choice of Jennifer Aniston as the hypersexed boss but then began to appreciate irony of an average man resisting a beautiful woman out of devotion to his fiancee. After all, how difficult would it have been to resist an unattractive and overweight female?
    The movie is one of the funniest that I have seen this year and although raunchy in places it does not indulge in the over the top style of Hangover 2.

  15. I think it was a great movie, everyone has had a horrible boss at one point in their lives, of course, mine were never that horrible.

    1. I have had all three types. One of my bosses was all 3 of these bosses rolled into one. He was 6’3″, It was great fun when his diminutive wife would visit and read him the riot act!

  16. It was great to sit in a theater and laugh along with everyone else. Jennifer Anniston was indeed a little over the top. However, add a star if you have ever worked for bosses like these. Oh, and if you do not want to jam a pen down your throat, toss some vegetable beef soup around a toilet stall, or from your mouth to the trash basket-hiding the can of course.

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  18. I haven’t seen it yet I went to watch Transformers3 :o) this film must cost a Lot though I’d like to see the money go to more good causes like 10% of the profit from the film?

    “Volunteer for Free Secure Diverse Private Video Share Community”
    UCHOOZE support and Promote SCOPE and 9 more awesome charities.

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