This spin on the “Strangers on a Train/Throw Momma from the Train” murder swap idea features Jason Bateman as we’ve seen him before, Kevin Spacey as we’ve seen him MANY times before and Jennifer Aniston as we’ve never seen her before — naughty and nasty and just plain filthy.
The ever-mild-mannered Bateman is Nick, who works for the cruel, heartless and abusive Spacey, doing a variation on his Boss from Hell from the classic “Swimming with Sharks.” Harken is the sort of employer who says, “I’m having my teeth whitened Tuesday. That means you have to finish all your work for me by Monday.”
Charlie Day (“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia)) gives a break-out performance as wimpy/put-upon Dale. He’s engaged to sweet Stacy, but works as a dental hygienist for Evil Julia (Aniston), a sex-crazed harpy who blackmails him into servicing her twisted obsessions.
Yeah, we should all have Dale’s problems. Wait’ll you hear why Dale can’t find another job.
And Jason Sudeikis is Kurt, the loyal employee who works for a high-minded boss (Donald Sutherland) until the day the old man croaks and his cokehead pervert son (Colin Farrell, over-the-top and wearing a bald-cap and comb-over) takes over.
“I work for the anti-Christ,” Kurt sputters.
The three pals wish their bosses dead. In this economy, who can afford to quit a job without another lined up? So they set out to hire professional help. They get Jamie Foxx, in a zingy cameo as a “murder consultant.” He’s the one who suggests the “Strangers on a Train/Throw Momma From the Train” idea. Switch off assignments — kill each other’s bosses. Nobody will know.
What gives this Seth Gordon (“Four Christmases”) comedy its juice are the believably inept efforts to plan murders, and the delicious banter between the friends. Bateman, Sudeikis and the manic Day chatter and interrupt and talk-over one another like they’ve been doing it for years. They stumble in all the places you’d expect them to as men trying to go beyond hating somebody to planning a stranger’s death.
Bateman, Day and Aniston have great characters to play and are perfect in their roles. Sudeikis and Farrell are shortchanged a bit in the writing and editing. But when Spacey brings his brand of venomous glee to yet another in a long line of great tyrants, the rest just shrink into the background. When he hisses at Nick, “You stupid little runt, I OWN you,” we believe him. He is so diabolical that he makes the other “Horrible Bosses” look like pushovers.
Yeah, we’ve seen the “Spill the bad guy’s coke” gag too many times, and however epic the car chase is — in a Prius, with Dale screaming sex talk into the phone as they do — it’s still a car chase.
But “Horrible Bosses” is funny enough to give America’s embattled working folk an outlet for their frustration, and America’s employer classes a bad case of nerves.
MPAA Rating: R, “for crude and sexual content, pervasive language and some drug material.
Cast: Jennifer Aniston, Jason Bateman, Kevin Spacey, Charlie Day, Colin Farrell,Jason Sudeikis
Credits: Directed by Seth Gordon, written by Michael Markowitz, John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein, produced by Brett Ratner and Jay Stern.
Running time: 1:40