It’s baffling to me why so many comedians insist on making real movie-movies out of their movies. Consider Steve Coogan’s latest movie The Trip, which effectively consists of Coogan and comedian Rob Brydon trading jokes, insults, and impressions for two hours, and ends up as the funniest movie of the year. And to their credit, the creators of Horrible Bosses, though not particularly gifted in the titling department, have come up with some hilariously loathsome characters – Jennifer Aniston as a deranged nymphomaniac dentist, Charlie Day as her frantic sexually-harassed assistant, Jamie Foxx as a “murder consultant” with an unprintable name, and most of all Colin Farrell as an entitled-cokehead-turned-manager whose performance is as ingeniously inspired as his skillfully-crafted fake comb-over.
A smarter director might have kept his plot loose and given his characters space to riff (see, for example, Pineapple Express). But director Seth Gordon insists on forcing all his players into a streamlined plot about employees trying to kill their bosses. The result is that all the above characters except for Day are thown to the sidelines for the majority of the movie’s running time (Farrell in particular is utterly wasted) so that the movie can emphasize Kevin Spacey sleepwalking through yet another jerky businessman role and squeezable-cheeked Jason Sudeikis fooling no one in his role as a slick womanizer. It doesn’t help that the writers are too wimpy to commit to the evil glee of a real black comedy, sticking instead to stale jokes about foreign call centers and frantic homophobia.
All that said, there are two factors that make this film stand out. First of all, there’s Day – even when the plot doesn’t have him high on cocaine, Day ping-pongs across the screen with a comic energy that’s totally lacking in the rest of the film. Second, the movie sets new heights for obvious product placement – cracking more than one joke about the comfortableness of the seats in a Volkswagen Jetta may not be funny, exactly, but you kind of have to admire the chutzpah involved.