So your boss is a jerk, who yanks your chain and treats you like crap, making you hate your job with a vengeance. You need to check out today’s Blu-ray release of hit comedy Horrible Bosses to realise just how lucky you are! But before you do, read on for our review…
Management candidate Nick Hendricks (Jason Bateman) has been logging 12-hour days and eating everything his twisted supervisor Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey) dishes out, toward the promise of a well-earned promotion. But now he knows that’s never going to happen. Meanwhile, dental assistant Dale Arbus (Charlie Day) has been struggling to maintain his self-respect against the relentless X-rated advances of Dr. Julia Harris, D.D.S. (Jennifer Aniston), when she suddenly turns ups the heat. Accountant Kurt Buckman (Jason Sudeikis) has just learned that his company’s corrupt new owner, Bobby Pellit (Colin Farrell), is not only bent on ruining his career but plans to funnel toxic waste into an unsuspecting population.
What can you do when your boss is a psycho, a man-eater or a total tool? Quitting is not an option. These monsters must be stopped. So on the strength of a few too many drinks and some dubious advice from a hustling ex-con (Jamie Foxx) whose street cred is priced on a sliding scale, the guys devise a convoluted but foolproof plan to rid the world of their respective employers. But even the best-laid plans are only as good as the brains behind them…
Horrible Bosses is another film that follows in the vein of the current string of ‘Buddy Movies’ that have engulfed the comedy genre over the past couple of years. Films such as The Hangover (and its sequel), Due Date and Hall Pass – to name but a few – have proved box office dynamite with cinemagoers and Horrible Bosses can only be considered the next edition in what is likely to be a long line such comedies. This doesn’t mean that Horrible Bosses is a horrible film though. However, it does mean that most viewers will have undoubtedly seen something along similar lines countless times before.
The film has its moments of laugh-out-loud comedy – the scene where the trio break in to Pellit’s house is a riot, for example, and the sequence that sees Dale save Nick’s boss Harken from an allergic reaction – but there’s also a number of instances that don’t quite hit the mark (for example, Kurt’s attempt to hit on a Fed Ex girl is slightly cringe worthy). As a buddy comedy the film works well. There’s a great sense of chemistry between the lead characters and viewers won’t doubt that Nick, Dale and Kurt have each other’s backs. Director Seth Gordon also cleverly sticks to a series of three shots for the majority of the scenes, keeping the characters framed together and the audience from doubting their bond. What Horrible Bosses does stumble on is its balance between characters and the comedy surrounding them as individuals. Gordon’s repetitive use of the 3 shot makes the lead trio almost become one character, which works well with the buddy movie angle, but means that viewers miss out on extended sequences with their relative horrible bosses. Whilst there are a series of sequences that obviously demonstrate the strained relationships Nick, Dale and Kurt have with their employers, Spacey, Aniston and Farrell (in particular) feel rather underused, as the majority of sequences centre around the former three and their antics during planning the latter three’s murders. The most hilarious scenes are undoubtedly those between the protagonists and their bosses, so it’s a shame that these aren’t more frequent. Horrible Bosses is certainly worth a watch, but just don’t expect to laugh so much that a little bit of pee comes out!
As well as pertaining to the tropes of the buddy comedy movie, Horrible Bosses also feels like it pays a tongue in cheek homage to Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers On a Train: a tale that sees two strangers (who, yes, you guessed it…meet on a train) agree to commit each other’s desired murders. The twisted, humorous version here lacks the suspense and accomplished handling that Hitchcock’s masterpiece achieves, but as a starting point it proves a solid premise for the dark comedy of the film and the expression of audiences’ deepest, most perverse desires against their bosses! Arguably, the film can also be seen as a male answer to the 1980s camp classic 9 to 5, which starred Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton as three women tired of being oppressed by their egotistical, misogynistic boss. Similarly to 9 to 5, Horrible Bosses plays up the fun and fantasy elements within the narrative without any real detrimental consequences for the characters come the conclusion.
The glue that binds the film together and keeps it from becoming a total waste of time is definitely the casting. All of the key performers give solid portrayals of their characters and will keep viewers engaged even when the narrative strays too far from mind numbingly funny. Jason Bateman brings his usual charm and excellent sense of comic timing to the rather straight-laced Nick, convincing as the grounded branch of the trio who prevents them from free-falling into complete insanity (although he doesn’t stop them from acting entirely ridiculously!). Bateman brings a dry sense of humour to the proceedings and adds a sense of intelligence to his performance, making Nick the sanest of the three friends. Charlie Day is the perfect blend of neurosis and geeky charisma. It’s instantly hilarious to consider that the nymphomaniac Julia (a mighty fine Jennifer Aniston in a brunette wig and little else [in one memorable scene anyway]!) is even remotely attracted to the gawky and rather nervous Dale.
Dale is responsible for the initiation of the plan to dispose of the trio’s bosses and Day manages to make the character completely clueless, hilarious and extremely likeable. The repeated joke about the fact Dale has ended up on the Sex Offenders’ Register after peeing in a deserted children’s playground whilst drunk further establishes the character as a joke and Day’s performance runs with this to be one of the funniest in the film. Jason Sudeikis is less appealing than Day and Bateman, coming across as an almost cardboard cut out of virtually any character he has previously played. His screen persona seems to vary very little from project to project, which makes him the least engaging of all the film’s stars. Having said that, he manages to generate enough laughs to refrain from becoming boring and his dry sense of humour compliments that of Bateman’s, particularly when the two gang up on Dale.
The real stars of the film though are undoubtedly Spacey, Aniston and Farrell in the roles of the horrible bosses. All three give fantastically theatrical and over the top performances, helping heighten the comedy. Spacey takes inspiration from his detestable character in Swimming With Sharks and gives a highly absurd and riotous performance. The actor blends both his dramatic and comedy experience to effectively play a psychopathic villain and a hysterically comic-book style horrible boss. Spacey perfectly captures the mean spirit of Harken in the sequence that sees him laugh uncontrollably when discovering Nick used to call his deceased Grandmother ‘Gam Gam’! His performance relies a lot on facial expression and he brilliantly captures the unhinged and maniacal elements of the character in his exaggerated expressions. Jennifer Aniston steps away from her typical role as the girl next door, rom com heroine and moves into unchartered comedy waters as the hilarious whore, Dr. Harris.
Aniston makes the transition from sweet and relatable well and proves that she is actually an adept enough actress to handle more versatile roles. She sometimes doesn’t quite convince as the nymphomaniac character she is supposed to be, but for the most part she is extremely funny within the role. Her chemistry with Charlie Day is first-rate and she gives a performance that suggests she is undressing him with her eyes every time he enters the room. Combined with Day’s scatty performance, Aniston chews the scenery with a riotously theatrical portrayal that effectively makes audiences feel as uncomfortable as Dale does in many scenes! Colin Farrell gives an immense performance here as the obnoxious smack-head and truly abhorrent Pellit, who inherits his father’s chemicals company after his death. Removing himself from his usual roguish good looks, Farrell dons a paunch, receding hairline and a wardrobe fitting of a total douche and he uses these to sink his teeth into the role. He’s sorely underused – receiving less screen time than either Aniston or Spacey – but the moments he is on screen are probably the best in the film. Nailing each and every joke (he’s hilarious when he delivers his theory on ‘trimming the fat’ of the office in a completely dead pan way!) Farrell is by far the funniest performer in the film. In fact he’s so convincing in his role as a complete and utter tool that I’m beginning to wonder whether he might actually be one in real life…
Unfortunately, the visual quality of the HD print lets down the release considerably. There are multiple instances where sequences are overly grainy and irritatingly unclear, particularly for a contemporary release. Whilst these moments are not normally for extended periods of time (it’s odd shots or sequences in specific locations that prove problematic), there is a significant number of them and they appear quite frequently. Apart from this, the images are clean and fresh, with a plush range of colours that are rich and deep in high definition. Colours are vibrant and lucid, as well as dark and overbearing at times. However, the range of colour schemes and extensive palettes used make the most of the HD format, bringing screens alive. The audio quality is markedly better than the visuals, with dialogue remaining clear and intelligible throughout the narrative. Ambient and soundtrack scores are similarly proficient, making full use of the various audio streams that Blu-ray discs and high def televisions are capable of handling.
Warner Home Video have compiled an informative collection of featurettes to accompany the feature film, all with a light, humorous and entertaining tone. Although none are particularly in depth, they are enough to keep those interested in seeking out further information on the film satisfied. Viewers can expect to find the following assortment of supplementary features on the Triple Play Blu-ray release:
• My Least Favourite Career – Colin Farrell, Jennifer Aniston, Jamie Foxx, Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, Charlie Day, Julie Bowen and director Seth Gordon recall jobs and difficult bosses from their past in this humorous ‘Before They Were Famous’ featurette.
• Surviving a Horrible Boss – Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day discuss what makes a Horrible Boss, how to deal with their unpredictable and outrageous behaviour, as well as elaborate on their on-set camaraderie as they play out the fantasies of oppressed workers everywhere!
• Being Mean is So Much Fun – Delve in to the mind of the Horrible Bosses – Colin Farrell (Pellit), Jennifer Aniston (Dr. Harris) and Kevin Spacey (Harken) reflect on what it was like to get mean, down and dirty…
• Additional Scenes.
• Making of the Horrible Bosses Soundtrack.
Film: 3.5 out of 5
Horrible Bosses was touted as one of the best comedies of the year, but whilst it is laugh out funny at points there are also a substantial number of gags that fall considerably flat. However, there’s enough to the film to ensure that it’s entertaining and engaging enough to warrant a watch.
Visuals: 3 out of 5
The quality of the images is extremely varied, with some sequences transferring very well to the HD print. However, other scenes are plagued with a heavy, irritating grain. Colours are strong and vivid though and in the clearer scenes definition is stellar.
Audio: 4 out of 5
The audio quality is greatly different from the visuals, with incredibly clear audio streams throughout. Dialogue is always intelligible and never engulfed by the rich soundtrack compositions or special effects sounds.
Extras: 4 out of 5
A solid mixture of special features accompany the film, offering extensive interviews through a variety of mini featurettes, behind the scenes footage and additional scenes, which will keep viewers engaged after the end credits have rolled.
Presentation: 4.5 out of 5
Images from the original advertising campaign – depicting the ensemble cast – are replicated on the release’s front cover and make it bright and attention grabbing. The menus are well laid out and easy to follow, with the special features section giving viewers handy information on the runtime of these featurettes. Overall, it’s a very well laid out and a slickly designed package.
Overall: 4 out of 5
Horrible Bosses may be a film of varied strengths and weaknesses, but it would be incorrect to state that Sony hadn’t put anything but a stellar release together. Apart from a few hiccups in the quality of the HD print the release is extremely well put together and will appeal to both fans and first time viewers alike. If you like your comedies ridiculous then Horrible Bosses is the release of the week for you!
Horrible Bosses was released on Blu-ray today.
This article was first posted on November 21, 2011