Horrible Bosses - Jason Sudeikis, Charlie Day and Jason Bateman
Kurt Buckman (Jason Sudeikis), Dale Arbus (Charlie Day) and Nick Hendricks (Jason Bateman) © 2011 Warner Bros


Two characters in Horrible Bosses are so miscast they create credibility problems even for a crazy comedy. The good news is that one of those would-be mistakes – Jennifer Aniston playing a desperate nympho maneater – turns out to be the best thing about the movie.

Nick (Jason Bateman), Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) and Dale (Charlie Day) want their three abusive bosses dead. Because each of those angry employees would have an obvious motive for murder, each decides to kill another’s boss instead of his own.

Throw Momma From the Train already mined that same Strangers on a Train “criss cross” premise for laughs way back in 1987. Horrible Bosses tips its hat to both movies through dialog references, in acknowledgments that manage to be simultaneously admirable and sort of shameless. What’s new this time around is a profusion of silly smuttiness and a guys-gone-wild, Hangover-wannabe level of escalating mayhem.

Horrible Bosses - Jason Bateman and Kevin Spacey
Nick Hendricks (Jason Bateman) and Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey) © 2011 Warner Bros

Nick’s boss is a domineering, dishonest slavedriver (Kevin Spacey, doing a great job of getting his sneer on). Kurt’s boss is a dangerously heartless moron with a fondness for cocaine and office lap dances (Colin Farrell, maniacally perfect with a plastered-down combover). So far, so good.

But it’s impossible to have much sympathy for Dale, an assistant being sexually harrassed by his dirty-mouthed dentist boss Julia (Aniston). As Kurt points out, “You know, yours doesn’t sound that bad.”

Wanting to remain faithful to his fiancee, Dale has resisted Julia’s verbal and flagrantly physical come-ons with eunuch-like resolve – as if any man on the planet could say no to a raunchy Rachel who looks like a Maxim cover girl and talks like a phone-sex operator. But now Julia is threatening to tell Dale’s bride-to-be that Julia and Dale did it, even if they don’t.

It’s ridiculously obvious that Julia should have been played as a hideously past-her-prime and no-longer-hot mess. Instead, the apparently ageless Aniston never has looked better, with hooker-heavy eye makeup, a fantastic body and an appealingly insatiable libido. At one point, she entices Dale while wearing only a very open white smock and a pair of panties. The sight of her that near naked is like a forbidden “Friends” fantasy come true. Later, she suggestively eats a popsicle, a banana and a hot dog in less than subtle succession. And hearing her talk about fingering herself in a bubble bath while saying things like “are you going to slap me in the face with your…” Well, you get the idea. Aniston may be all wrong as a she-monster who has to resort to blackmail to get laid, but no male ticket-buyer will complain.

The offbeat miscasting that doesn’t work as well is Sudeikis as Kurt, who is supposed to be a ladies man with near-instantaneous powers of seduction. The “Saturday Night Live” cast member has a goofy flair for the absurd, such as when he’s gleefully shoving a toothbrush and other toiletries down his backside, but studly he isn’t.

It’s hard not to wish the entire movie had been devoted to Aniston’s third of the story. Her foxy, filthy friskiness is funnier than most of what comes between her hot but hilarious smock shots.

[Rating: 3]


James Dawson

Jim is Film Review Online's Los Angeles based reviewer.