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‘Bosses’ taps the joy of being bad

Posted: July 13, 2011 - 5:35pm

“Horrible Bosses,” this summer’s latest R-rated comedy, reinforces an idea that many of us have suspected since we were kids: it’s got to be fun to be bad. And if you can’t be evil yourself, you can settle for watching others pretending to be.

This is the notion behind the title and it doesn’t disappoint. What could have easily been a mediocre comedy quickly shows it’s got some chops. It’s nothing too groundbreaking or daring, and it’s heavy on language we’re all used to, but it somehow makes the most of itself.

The secret is that you can see how much the actors are enjoying their parts — especially the actors behind the three horrible bosses. That rubs off. I certainly couldn’t keep my chuckles silent.

But this isn’t the bosses’ story, it’s their employees’ story. They decide the only logical way to solve their workplace woes is by killing each others’ bosses. Of course, they’re not the type to get this right, and it’s their interactions with the evil ones that launch the movie above other standard comedies.

The battle between Jason Bateman and Kevin Spacey leads the pack. Both are in familiar territory, as Bateman plays the straight man surrounded by an eccentric world. Spacey’s no stranger to playing baddie bosses who’ve ranged from the unsympathetic (“Glengarry Glenn Ross”) to Satan squared (“Swimming with Sharks”). As in the latter, he torments his underling here just because he can. Only now, he seems to be enjoying poking fun at his own image. Who wouldn’t?

The clash between Charlie Day of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and his dentist boss, played by Jennifer Aniston, probably had the most potential. It doesn’t quite live up to it but still gets you for the same reasons the others do. That’s because Aniston’s showing it can be fun to watch her break her own character typecast with both her language and her body.

She recklessly pursues Day with an “I get what I want” attitude. It would be more interesting to see her do so more out of cruelty or taunting to this short, stocky guy who’s clearly below her league. It would also qualify her more for her death sentence. Day’s buddies keep reminding him that his boss doesn’t sound so bad. But Aniston plays the ugly side gleefully, making this her first performance in years that more people would want to see.

The final battle is between Jason Sudeikis and a bloated Colin Farrell with a comb over. Plus he’s generally insane and can’t sit at a desk not dusted with drugs. That’s enough to push his accountant to the killing limits.

“Horrible Bosses” isn’t the first comedy to lampoon Hitchcock’s famous theme of killing your cohort’s problems off while they do the same for you. In fact, the characters know this and bring it up. But as soon as you learn the plot, it just becomes the setup. This movie is all about the joy of performance.

The three baddies want you to laugh at them. Chances are, you will. The heroes have their moments too, especially with such raunchy material. I predict “Horrible Bosses” won’t become the unseemly buddy hit “The Hangover” was, but it’s sure more fun than many of the other comedies that aim for the same low denominator that this does.

When you make a crude movie these days, you have to stand out. The best way to do that is to enjoy it on that level. Director Seth Gordon and his company did and it shows. The gags are consistently amusing. Plus, it’s got one of the funnier ending credit sequences that I can remember.

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