Not So Horrible

Horrible Bosses, written by Michael Markowitz, John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, directed by Seth Gordon, starring Jason Bateman (Nick), P.J. Byrne (Kenny), Jason Sudeikis (Kurt), Kevin Spacey (Dave), Jennifer Aniston (Julia), Colin Farrell (Bobby) and Jamie Foxx (Dean ‘MF’ Jones) (2011): Enjoyable ‘gray’ comedy that spins off from Alfred Hitchcock’s (herein-acknowledged) Strangers on a Train. Three friends with, well, horrible bosses decide to kill one another’s bosses. But the friends are pretty inept, so problems ensue.

This must be a pretty good comedy because it makes Jennifer Aniston watchable, primarily by having her play a ‘bad’ character with pretty much the same bland lack of affect that Aniston brings to all acting projects. Somehow it works, though Spacey and Farrell — as the other two horrible bosses — are a lot funnier. Farrell, buried under make-up and prosthetics, is a true comic grotesque.

The movie makes light of the idea that a man — even an unconscious one — can be raped by a woman, a joke only a really, really black comedy would make if the genders were reversed. The trod-on employees, especially Jason Bateman’s Nick, are played as nice nebbishes. The movie gets a surprising amount of comic mileage out of an OnStar-like car navigation-and-monitoring device. Where Horrible Bosses falls down is in its committment to nastiness — I’d have liked things to go a lot blacker when instead they veer into the sitcommy at the end. Recommended.

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