Movie review: ‘Horrible Bosses’

I’ve reviewed “Role Models” (click here to read it), a comedy that included youngsters but still had that profane edge of R-rated classics such as “Porky’s” (click here for my review of that one). However, today I’ll take a look at another one of those R-rated fun flicks, but this time there’s nary a teenager at the heart of the plot. I’m writing about the more adult story of “Horrible Bosses,” where three friends find their jobs intolerable because of the outlandish behavior of their bosses and decide to do something about it. If you enjoy crude humor done exceptionally well with an especially excellent cast, then you will truly enjoy “Horrible Bosses.”

‘Horrible Bosses’
(2011; 98 minutes; rated R; directed by Seth Gordon and starring Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis)


(NOTE: I expanded this review with additional opinion and trivia and the updating of links on Oct. 2, 2018.)

Some films take a little time and a second viewing to make their mark. It took several viewings for me to truly appreciate “A Christmas Story” (click here for my review) and the few Will Ferrell films I now endorse with a “thumbs up” – especially “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.” Now, I can report that it took a second look on DVD after seeing it in the theater for me to really like “Horrible Bosses.”


The cast is truly top-shelf, give a superlative effort and they don’t really hold back anything in “Horrible Bosses.” It is an adult comedy and so the humor is base and spirals downward into the floor below any basement. Jennifer Aniston is particularly good in an out-of-character role of the oversexed, blackmailing dentist “Dr. Julia Harris.” Plus, the writing is very good, so much so that Aniston was quoted as saying she avoided the director’s call for improvisation because her lines were “beautifully choreographed.”

Horrible Bosses” is the story of three friends whose bosses are, you guessed it … horrible. Each is pushed to the limit and they ultimately decide to hire a hit man (oh, the first one they hire turns out to be something you’ll never even begin to guess). It just goes from funny to funnier as the second hire guides them along their path.

The whole thing blows up in their faces and the crudities continue to rack up humongous style points in the humor department. The convoluted plot ultimately has one of the bosses killing another and one of the friends winds up in bed with the third boss. Whew! You’ll need a scorecard to keep up with all the twists and turns here. Of course, it all turns out all right in the end as a car’s live voice navigation operator helps keep the guys from going to jail.

I’ll run down the actors in segments from the friends looking for revenge to the bosses and finally the supporting cast that does such a great job.

Here are the guys:

  • A Golden Globe winner and two-time nominee (not for this one), Jason Bateman plays “Nick Hendricks” and he’s putting in 14 hours daily at a financial firm in hopes of a big promotion. However, his boss (Kevin Spacey) is downright cruel and is only tormenting him by dangling the hope of a promotion that will never come. Bateman’s work here isn’t as good as the two other top-billed actors. He does his part with controlled ease but doesn’t distinguish himself, despite the opportunity. It’s an old story for Bateman. He has also been in “Identity Thief,” “Couples Retreat” and far back was in the football film “Necessary Roughness” (click here for my review). I don’t know why Hollywood keeps putting Bateman up in starring roles. OK, he’s watchable and doesn’t embarrass himself or any film, but he’s TV, simply not a cinema headliner. If you don’t believe men, then watch “Office Christmas Party” (click here for my review), which also starred Aniston. Bateman, who won his Globe and was nominated for “Arrested Development,” will never be anything more than the side dish you enjoy and never be good enough to be the entrée.
  • Charlie Day plays “Dale Arbus” and as a dental assistant he’s being sexually harassed by Aniston and it could wreck his upcoming nuptials. He can’t find another job because he’s a registered sex offender (he urinated in a park late one night) and she’s the only one who will hire him. Day is really superb as the yapping, Chihuahua-like member of the group who is easily excitable. I would have liked to see more of him and less of Bateman. Day has also been in “Pacific Rim” and “The Lego Movie.”
  • Jason Sudeikis plays “Kurt Buckman” and he’s the favored employee at a company whose founder dies and that leaves his arrogant, drug-abusing son in charge. Sudeikis is the funniest of the trio (nearly as funny as he was in “We’re the Millers” with Aniston) and he is smooth in conveying a breezy, fun guy to be around. Most hysterical is how he manages to leave DNA evidence at Spacey’s home (if I told you, I couldn’t un-tell you). A “Saturday Night Live” veteran, Sudeikis has also been in “Hall Pass” and “What Happens in Vegas.”

As far as the bosses go:

  • Now a Hollywood pariah in the wake of a boat-load of nasty allegations, two-time Oscar winner (not for this one) and big-time creep Kevin Spacey plays “David Harken” as the sadistic, slimy CEO who’s making Bateman’s life miserable. Spacey shows his usual cool, calm sophistication as he piles on his favorite whipping boy. He’s the best actor here by far, but with the type of comedy of his character, he doesn’t come out as best here because his lines just do not have the others’ kick. Spacey was outstanding in “L.A. Confidential” (click here for my review) and was also in “Recount” (click here for my review) and won one of his two Oscars for “American Beauty.” As for the rest of Spacey’s CV, he has a Golden Globe and seven nominations and, ah, forget it …
  • A Golden Globe winner and nominee (not for this one), Aniston is all over Day from every angle: She talks dirty, verbally propositions him and even touches him in an inappropriate manner. While many guys would consider this a fantasy come true, he doesn’t. I give Aniston excellent marks here because it is out of character for her: “Dr. Harris” is rapacious feline on the prowl and she pulls it off with aplomb. Aniston is most famous for TV’s “Friends,” for which she got a Globe and a nomination, and has been in “Just Go With It” in the same year of release as this one (click here for my review) and the cult favorite “Office Space” (click here for my review).
  • Despite not being the acting equal of Spacey, Golden Globe winner and nominee (not for this one) Colin Farrell as “Bobby Pellit” actually gives the best performance of the three bosses. Ferrell is just superb as the drug-addled jerk who, when getting the company after his father’s death, looks at it only as his “ATM” and demands that Sudeikis “cut the fat” by firing obese people. Farrell was in the remakes of both “Total Recall” and “Fright Night” as well as the “Miami Vice” movie and “The Recruit.” He won for “In Bruges” and was nominated for “The Lobster.”

Outside of the guys and their bosses, the best supporting work is by Jamie Foxx as “Dean ‘MF’ Jones” and he becomes the guys’ “murder consultant.” When the guys try to hire a hit man, they ultimately get the menacing Foxx at a sleazy bar. However, he’s certainly less than the vicious criminal he leads them to believe. Foxx is excellent here and makes the acting look easy – actually, it would have been more interesting to have him as one of the lead characters – say over Bateman. He was also in “Miami Vice” with Farrell and “Django Unchained,” “Due Date” and he won an Oscar for “Ray.”

Two actors, one from TV the other films, have tiny roles but do not do the same job. Donald Sutherland plays “Jack Pellit,” who is Sudeikis’ good boss, and Bob Newhart plays “Lou Sherman,” who becomes Bateman’s new boss at the end.

While Sutherland comes off blasé and indifferent in this small role that he appears to just mail in, Newhart twinkles in his less than two minutes on screen. Sutherland’s character is killed off quickly and Newhart’s turns out to make Spacey look almost normal. Sutherland has been in “MASH” (yes, that’s the real name; no asterisks in the official title of the film as they were just added on posters) and several movies set in World War II: “Kelly’s Heroes” with Clint Eastwood (click here for my review), “Eye of the Needle” (click here for my review) and “The Eagle Has Landed” (click here for my review). Of course, Newhart is a TV legend from shows bearing his own name and received his first Primetime Emmy in 2013 (surprising that it took so long; he has six other nominations) for a role on “The Big Bang Theory.”

Horrible Bosses” was the 23rd ranked film at the domestic box office in 2011 with $117.5 million in ticket sales, according to Box Office Mojo. “Horrible Bosses” made $209.6 million worldwide on a budget of approximately $37 million, according to Wiki. The top two films were, in order, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows: Part 2” with $381 million and “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” with $352.3 million. The year’s top-ranked crude comedy was “The Hangover Part II” with $254.4 million for fourth place. Here are the other two films from 2011 that I’ve reviewed:

Assorted cast and film notes (via

  • Although Day looks like another Hollywood micro-man next to Sudeikis’ 6-foot-1 frame or even Bateman’s height of 5-foot-11, he’s 5-foot-7 and that makes him taller than many of today’s Hollywood tiny boys such as Scott “Ocean’s Eleven” Caan and Johnny “The Big Bang Theory” Galecki at 5-foot-5, much less one such as Rick Moranis at 5-foot-4 or the late screen legend and ultra micro-man Mickey Rooney at 5-foot-2.
  • Aniston’s darker wig in this one is a departure from her usually lighter-colored hair and she reportedly said the different hair color was to help her character be a little more oversexed.
  • Naomi Watts and Sarah Jessica Parker were rumored to have been considered for the role ultimately going to Aniston. I have to say I’m glad those two didn’t get it. Neither one has the talent of Aniston to have carried it off in this specific comedy.
  • Popular stand-up comedian Ron White plays “Det. Samson” and is a cop with caustic questions for the guys. White is OK here (you actually expect him to do part of his act) and has also been in “Sex and the City 2” as well as his own comedy specials and being part of the “Blue Collar Comedy Tour.”
  • Former football players Warren Sapp and Michael Strahan both auditioned for roles in the film.
  • Julie Bowen, who is currently on the simply-awful “Modern Family” on TV, plays Spacey’s wife here. It’s a small role and you don’t get much of a handle on her talent. She has also been in “Happy Gilmore” with Adam Sandler (click here for my review).

© Chuck Curry and A Gator in Naples, 2014, 2018.
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