Any time I watch an R-rated comedy, the first thing I ask is “Does the movie need that rating?” Too many low quality R-rated films use incongruous nudity and inappropriate sexual imagery primarily for shock value instead of serving the story in any meaningful way. Luckily, Horrible Bosses is one film that doesn’t stoop to that level. Director Seth Gordon (The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters) was really only interested in the way “real people talk,” as he mentioned during my interview for CliqueClack with him.
Far be it from me to be unduly influenced by directors, I entered the theater completely stone-faced and prepared to be entertained or disappointed. As it turned out, the movie was funny, well-paced, and excellently acted. The story is fairly simple: three friends, Kurt, Nick, and Dale, played by Jason Sudeikis (Saturday Night Live), Jason Bateman (Arrested Development), and Charlie Day (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) find themselves complaining about their ludicrous (yet somehow grounded in reality) bosses, played by Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston, and Colin Farrell. Kevin Spacey plays a terrifying, sociopathic CEO that’s all too believable in his abuse of Nick, Jennifer Aniston plays a dentist that sexually harasses Dale in a way that actually portrays him as a victim effectively, and Colin Farrell plays a balding, out of shape cocaine addict that inherited a business.
As revealed in the trailers (so not much of a spoiler), the three are finally pushed too far and plot to kill each other’s bosses. Hi-jinks and hilarity ensue in a classic series of ill-advised moves and bad luck that catch up to the conspirators in the spirit of any old-school farce. Horrible Bosses may have old-school homages, but it retains modern sensibilities. The plot, while hardly original or brilliant, doesn’t insult the intelligence of the viewer. The pacing is fast enough and the jokes are common enough to keep from getting bored — rarely does the movie drag or make you look at your watch.
But the best part of the film are the characters — obviously necessary in any film genre, they are vital to the success of any comedy. The three would-be murderers are all fairly relatable and well-fleshed out, none seeming like a minor copy of the other, and never relying on one-dimensional stereotypes. What I really appreciated was that the characters never became caricatures, although it veered close a few times.
So in summary, this is R-rated primarily for adult language, and a few adult situations — no nudity or overly scatological humor. The movie has a lot of laughs and the time just flies by — and it’s the best comedy I’ve seen this year.