Much like The Hangover and frat house-themed flicks like Old School, Horrible Bosses relies on a certain adolescent, inherently “guy” type of sensitivity to things like sex, successful women, sexually attractive women, and fear of impotence (biological or professional). And when you think about it, it all goes together. The premise of Horrible Bosses is that three hardworking guys are trapped in untenable work situations, lorded over by the despicable title characters, but unable—due to the economy, threats, past indiscretions that loom large over potential job interviews—to change their situations. So, of course, they decide to do an “I’ll do your murder, you do mine” kind of solution, as in Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train. And we all know how that turned out.
Actually, the main characters, ad man Nick (Jason Bateman), corporate accountant Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) and dental assistant Dale (Charlie Day), initially attempt to level their nemeses through the use of hit man Dean “MotherFucker” Jones (a scene stealing Jamie Foxx), whose negotiating skills are frail at best (first he names $30K as his asking price; when they blanche, he suggests $5,000). Having to settle for MF’s consulting services, they decide to off each other’s bosses so as not to leave any traces that link them to the scene. Nick’s boss, Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey), is brilliant at playing passive-aggressive mind games with Nick, tricking him into drinking on the job and using it against him in an upcoming promotion. Kurt’s new boss, the son of his beloved old boss (a twinkly Donald Sutherland), is Bobby (Colin Farrell, vying with Foxx for our attention), a coke-snorting nightmare who turns the office into his own not-so-private pleasure den, and orders Kurt to fire anybody fat or disabled. Dale works for Dr. Julia Harris (Jennifer Aniston), who regularly fondles his genitalia and engages in really crude behavior and language while knocking out her patients.
The trio’s attempts at recon are largely very funny, particularly one involving accidental coke sniffing and its aftermath. The patter is quick and profane, but occasionally surprisingly smart, as when MF relates the real reason he went to prison, which provides a funny stab at Snow Falling on Cedars and those who loved it. Then again, the homophobia pulsates, although a debate between Nick and Kurt over which would be more appealing as rape bait at the prison they fear they’ll wind up in, is oddly surreal. The actors throw themselves into the madness; the movie is at its best when the three leads are just hanging out, talking, or planning their next move. There’s an easy symbiosis among them that is truly appealing and makes the movie as watchable as it is. Of course, the women are all sexual receptors for the charm of, particularly, Kurt, or domestic traps (Nick’s wife, Dale’s clueless fiancée).
Still, with its emphasis on fear of job loss, of having to remain in a crap job with a crap boss because of the economy, Horrible Bosses taps into a tiny bit more than just male fantasy.