MONDAY MATINEE: Horrible Bosses

What happens when you have an all-star cast, a spectacular plot idea, and an unfortunate misnomer that today’s audiences prefer raunch over wit? “Horrible Bosses,” starring Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, Charlie Day, Jennifer Aniston, Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx, and an unrecognizeable Colin Farrell, that’s what.

Bateman, Day, and Sudeikis are “everymen,” but each shaded differently. They provide the moral center of this dark comedy – and all dark comedies that work really do need a moral center. There’s a more likeable actor on the screen than Jason Bateman. In almost every roll he plays, I find that I connect with him and would like to hang out with him. He’d be a great friend. Sudeikus, who I always confuse with “The Hangover’s” Ed Helms, does a good job here, if he is somewhat unbelievable as a ladies man. And Charlie Day comes close to stealing the movie in a few scenes. However, you cannot steal a movie from the brilliantly horrible bosses.

Colin Farrel doesn’t get much screen time and I wonder how much footage ended up on the cutting room floor because he was underused. Jennifer Aniston is about as far from type as anyone female actress is unfortunately not as funny as she is crass. But Kevin Spacey, at his scenery chewing finest, charges on to the screen and – as usual – outshines everyone else. Its a shame he doesn’t have a better script.  Jamie Foxx, who I didn’t know was in this film, was a pleasant surprise.  He’s such a talented person, but by the end of this even his performance suffered under the script and direction.

This movie had so much potential. And there were several good laughs, but never that belly laugh moment that I had hoped for. I wonder if the writer(s) and/or director got overwhelmed. This cast is too good and to find ways to showcase all of them is hard in such a short film. It feels like they started with really this great concept and then the wheels fell off  as they tried to figure out how to get to the end.  They weren’t willing to be a completely black comedy, I assume for fear of box office poison, so instead we have this hybrid dark comedy mixed with light, half-farce and broad comedy.  That is not a combo that works.

Director Seth Gordon, who also helmed the disastrous “Four Christmases” is perhaps over his head in the movies. He does great work with television (directing one of my favorite episodes of “Modern Family” and two great episodes of “The Office,”) but perhaps 23 minutes is all he’s good for.  Or maybe he is a fantastic actor’s director and lets them go but isn’t so good with story.  I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.  This time.

I’d see this again on DVD, especially if there are more bloopers and deleted scenes as I did like it and the casting was so much fun. I just wish I could have loved it.

“Horrible Bosses” is rated R for (a lot of) adult language, sexual situations, drug references, and mature themes.

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