As a reliable rule of thumb, the number of stars promoting a movie often proves inversely proportional to the numbers of stars that movie should receive in a review. It’s like a Hollywood Hail Mary, a last-ditch effort by studios to dazzle audiences into thinking their film is anything other than a steaming pile of ‘been there, done that’. But sometimes Hollywood surprises us. Sometimes a star-studded cast actually can manage to harmonise and shine rather than drown beneath layer upon layer of gratuitous cameo.
Horrible Bosses is one such film.
It is, in a word, funny. Really funny, and despite its top-heavy cast it works because everyone plays their part to perfection. Leading the way are Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day – three friends who decide their lives would be significantly better off if their respective (and repulsive) bosses were dead. Fuelled by frustration and alcohol, the trio hastily devises a plan to kill each other’s tormentor under the tutelage of an ex-con whose name is as hilarious as it is unprintable (here’s a clue - two words, first one: ‘mother’). Played by Jamie Foxx, it’s a master class in how cameos can work and a fine example of Stanislavski’s ‘no small parts, only small actors’ mantra.
Equally impressive are the three secondary leads as the eponymous ‘horrible bosses’. Kevin Spacey excels as the uncaring and exploitative businessman working Bateman into the ground with no prospect for advancement; Colin Farrell is almost unrecognisable as Sudeikis’ overweight, coked-up and combed-over shop manager; while Jennifer Aniston thoroughly sheds her ‘girl next door’ image (along with her clothes) as a nymphomaniacal dentist determined to sleep with the recently-engaged Day. They’re all entirely detestable and our desire to see them knocked off is as much a credit to the actors’ performances as it is to director Seth Gordon’s ability to tap into the all-too-familiar feeling of loathing the people we work for.
It’s that same feeling of familiarity that drives the entire story home, most importantly in terms of the interplay between the three protagonists. Bateman, Day and Sudeikis clearly enjoy each other’s company in real life, meaning their on-screen friendship feels instantly comfortable and sincere. They achieve the kind of chemistry every director dreams of, and whether scripted or improvised their lines offer up some of the funniest laugh out loud moments seen in cinemas this year.
Horrible Bosses is definitely an adult comedy, though it thankfully manages to remain dark without being offensive, fast without feeling frantic and silly without descending into farce.