Three friends concoct a deadly plan when they realize their respective bosses are making their lives miserable.
Good comedy is all about timing and delivery; in that way it's closer to music than any other type of narrative art form. More than one gifted comic has saved weak material or elevated decent material by knowing just how to put a joke over the plate. If casting is 90% of directing then directing comedy is 95% and if the filmmakers aren't spot on the end result will be horrible.
"Horrible Bosses" fortunately benefits from unconventional casting which pays off for director Seth Gordon ("Four Christmases") in spades. While picking up some experienced comedians for supporting role, Gordon has put most of his fate in the hands of actors who've never been particularly noted for their comic timing (no matter how much they try) and is rewarded with one scene-stealing performance after another.
Nick (Jason Bateman), Dale (Charlie Day) and Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) have something a lot of people want but most have a hard time finding, jobs they love. Or they would if they didn't have a three of the worst possible bosses anyone could imagine: a despotic self-promoter (Kevin Spacey), an over-sexed dentist (Jennifer Aniston) and a coke-head chemical company heir (Colin Farrell).
The plot itself is almost like a male version of "9 to 5" (with a little bit of "Strangers on a Train") which naturally means quite a lot of sex jokes and attempts at male bonding but John Daley and Jonathan Goldstein have included enough … wit isn't really the right word … genuine humor to make even the crassest jokes go down.
And crass is definitely the name of the game, but in the best possible way. Gordon and his writer's seem to be having a contest on adding the worst possible punch lines to all of their jokes. Which wouldn’t work half so well if it weren't in the hands of an extremely game cast. Farrell in particular is a true comic find who owns every minute he's on the screen and unfortunately has some of the briefest screen time. Many of the other supporting roles are just as well done, from a Ioan Gruffold as the trio's first unfortunate attempt at hiring a hitman to Jamie Foxx as their second unfortunate attempt.
After their bosses push the three average guys beyond their limits by taking their promised promotions, forcing them to fire their co-workers or making untoward advances. Thought that last one is a bit harder to swallow as said boss looks like and in fact is Jennifer Aniston.
That's one of the few downsides to "Horrible Bosses," the plot is obvious in its construction as tries very hard to get out of set up mode and to its actual punch line. It tends to bob and weave between real surprise and originality and a complete lack of believability. Like a lot of comedies, "Horrible Bosses" has several excellent set pieces put together with a lot of thought put into how they will work and the quality of the jokes. And then it has to try and piece them together to make a plot.
The "Horrible Bosses" themselves have a tendency to overshadow the heroes despite the amount of screen time they get as well, which keeps the jokes somewhat bumpy. But overall "Bosses" makes more right steps than wrong ones. As problems go there are worse ones to have, and the film's willingness to go to some truly dark places for a laugh combined with a cast more than willing to tag along for the ride.