The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Horrible Bosses

I think you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn't worked for a jerk at one time or another. The frustrating thing about hating your boss is that you are essentially powerless. They hold all the cards, and they can make your life a living hell. Admit it: you're thinking about your own bad boss as you read this, aren't you? And I'm willing to bet that feelings of contempt are coming on full force. This universality is a big part of what makes the new comedy Horrible Bosses so appealing. Thankfully, the movie largely knows what to do with its subject matter; while not likely to become the ultimate in I hate my job fury a la Office Space, it offers enough bitter laughs to be fun.

Nick (Jason Bateman) is a low-level executive who gets screwed out of a promotion by his proudly egotistical boss (Kevin Spacey), despite years of ass-kissing. Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) is an accountant at a family-run chemical company; when the owner dies, he can no longer stand to work under the man's vulgar, coke-snorting son (Colin Farrell). Dale (Charlie Day) works for a dentist (Jennifer Aniston) who sexually harasses him, despite the fact that he's engaged. (Sexually harassed by Jennifer Aniston? Poor baby.) While sharing a few beers, the three pals come up with the notion of killing their bosses. They hire a "murder consultant" played by Jamie Foxx, whose character has what may be the greatest name in the history of cinema, although I won't blow it here. To deflect motive, he recommends they kill each other's bosses. This sets off a farce in which the guys plot and attempt to carry out three murders, hitting a variety of comic obstacles along the way.

The concept of Horrible Bosses may sound shocking to some people, but the movie never actually condones murder. It instead provides exaggerated wish fulfillment as we watch these men work to gain a sense of control over the very people who oppress them. For example, when they learn that Nick's boss has a fatal peanut allergy, there's joy in discovering his weakness and exhilaration from knowing that they could potentially exploit it. Some viewers may wish the movie would go darker than it does - and I'm usually one of those people rooting for comedies to push the envelope as far as possible - but I think this one works without resorting to outright nastiness. The idea of hapless guys finding a way to feel empowered is the comic selling point here.

This is one of those pictures where casting is crucial. Charlie Day, Jason Bateman, and Jason Sudeikis have strong chemistry together. Their characters bicker and share neuroses. They criticize each other's ineptitude while acting ineptly themselves. Dale struggles to convince his pals that getting sexually harassed by an extremely hot woman is just as bad as the abuse they're enduring. So much of Horrible Bosses depends on the interactions between the men, and the actors deliver the goods. Desperation is funny; these guys all do desperation well. Then you've got Aniston delightfully playing against type as an insatiable nymphomaniac, Farrell packing some extra weight and a bad comb-over to portray the world's biggest tool, and Spacey doing that intimidating stare-down thing he does so well. It is hard not to fall under the film's spell. Jamie Foxx quite possibly steals the show, though, wisely playing a stereotype up to a certain point and then abruptly taking a left turn. He's hilarious.

I laughed all the way through. The story twists in some ways you see coming and others you don't. There's more than a bit of ingenuity in how everything has been constructed. Several individual moments are nothing short of inspired. They say a good comedy has at least 3 or 4 belly laughs, so this one fits the definition. If anything, the characters played by Aniston, Spacey, and Farrell could have been given more screen time. They're not in it as much as you might think, and that limits Horrible Bosses a little bit. As it stands, this is a fun, enjoyably dyspeptic summer comedy. Had we seen more of the bosses - and grown to loathe them ourselves - the picture might have evolved into a revenge fantasy for the ages.

Directed with great energy by Seth Gordon (The King of Kong, Four Christmases), Horrible Bosses still largely does what it sets out to do: it taps into your own memories of working for an A-hole and then provides catharsis through humor. This is a very, very funny movie.

( out of four)

Blu-Ray Features:

Horrible Bosses will be released on DVD, in a Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack, and as a digital download on October 11. The Blu-Ray and DVD also include an UltraViolet digital copy, which allows you to download the movie to a PC or Mac, plus instantly stream it from a digital cloud to your computer, tablet, or smartphone.

One of the primary features of the Blu-Ray is the “Totally Inappropriate Edition,” which is an extended cut running eight minutes longer than the version shown theatrically. The release cut is on a second disc, along with the other bonus goodies. “My Least Favorite Career” features the stars discussing horrible bosses from their own pasts. Nothing earth-shattering here, but it is certainly fun to hear A-list actors talking about a time when they were lower on the totem pole. “”Surviving a Horrible Boss” is similar in nature, only this time the stars offer tips on dealing with a bad employer. “Being Mean Is So Much Fun” centers on Aniston, Spacey, and Farrell, who talk about how much they enjoyed playing nasty. Aniston, in particular, seems to relish the chance to do things she's never done on screen before. “The Making of the Horrible Bosses Soundtrack” documents how a group of top-tier musicians came together to create the score's signature sound.

Finally, there are some deleted scenes, including two alternate openings. These are surprisingly strong, especially the first one. I'm not sure why they were cut because, frankly, they work.

Horrible Bosses was a surprise box office hit. If you missed it, now's your chance to see one of the funniest pictures of the year. If you already saw it, you can now get even more good stuff from the extended cut. Either way, a good deal for a movie that has high replay value.

Horrible Bosses is rated R for crude and sexual content, pervasive language and some drug material. The running time is 1 hour and 37 minutes.