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Horrible Bosses Early Reviews: Lazy, Comic Escapism, Middling TV, Sexist, Raunchy, Dark Fun, Mess

Photo of Anne Thompson and Maggie Lange By Anne Thompson and Maggie Lange | Thompson on Hollywood July 6, 2011 at 5:24AM

If you want to know what the Hangover series hath wrought, see Horrible Bosses, featuring a hapless trio of would-be boss-killers (Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, and Jason Sudeikis) who are aided by wily scene-stealer Jamie Foxx. Their sinister bosses are played with brio by office bully Kevin Spacey (who's been there before), brunette dentist harasser Jennifer Anniston (joining the I-can-do-raunchy-comedy-too club) and unrecognizable coke-freak Colin Farrell. All are having a fabulous time.
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Thompson on Hollywood

If you want to know what the Hangover series hath wrought, see Horrible Bosses, featuring a hapless trio of would-be boss-killers (Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, and Jason Sudeikis) who are aided by wily scene-stealer Jamie Foxx. Their sinister bosses are played with brio by office bully Kevin Spacey (who's been there before), brunette dentist harasser Jennifer Anniston (joining the I-can-do-raunchy-comedy-too club) and unrecognizable coke-freak Colin Farrell. All are having a fabulous time.

Obviously, hitting audience dissatisfaction with workplace authority is an easy mark. Our sampling of early reviews (with trailer, below) suggest that while the premise is far-fetched, on the one hand Seth Gordon's Horrible Bosses takes few risks and fails to satisfy as an absurdist dark comedy, but on the other, delivers an hilarious escapist romp.

Thompson on Hollywood

While some reviewers question the comedy's plot, casting and premise, with references to failed Three Stooges slapstick and poorly-conceived Saturday Day Night Life skits, thus far Horrible Bosses is trending fresh on the Tomatometer. In any case, I can assure you that this movie is critic-proof. This Warner Bros. comedy will be laughing all the way to the bank.

The real question: how much did the movie cost? With a name cast like that, some of the ensemble worked at a discount but they still got paid. The LA Times reports that studios are cutting comedy budgets in the face of weakening DVD sales. While some comedies turned into hits this summer--Bridesmaids scored, along with sequel the Hangover II, which is the highest-grossing movie of the year in the U.S. and Canada--studios have lost quite a bit of money with expensive comedic failures such as Will Ferrell’s Land of the Lost and Steve Carell’s Dinner for Schmucks and Evan Almighty.

Here's the review round-up:

Karina Longworth, The Village Voice

With its lazily sketched characters recalling the back half of an unremarkable episode of SNL, this is middling TV material, almost comforting in its bland predictability—the kind of stuff you want on the seat-back screen when there’s turbulence on a plane—but rarely actually laugh-out-loud funny, and never truly dark or daring. In this arid climate, the few zingers that land seem momentarily juicier than they really are. In a two-scene cameo, a knowing Jamie Foxx delivers the kind of minor pleasure you savor in a film that’s too often off-speed.

Kirk Honeycutt, The Hollywood Reporter

Times must be tough when such a lame comedy features an uncommonly high number of name actors… Certainly young people who love to party with filmmakers who are talented in raunchy comedy -- say the Hangover crowd or Judd Apatow’s stock company -- will look askance at older actors playing frat-brat characters that would make the Three Stooges look sophisticated.

Drew McWeeny, HitFix

I laughed, but even as I laughed, I was frustrated by the potential that feels unfulfilled.  The screenplay by Michael Markowitz and John Francis Daley & Jonathan Goldstein has a promising set-up, some funny early moments, and then it makes a series of choices that keep undercutting the things that work. It's an amiable mess, but a mess nonetheless.

Caryn James, James on Screens

Horrible Bosses is the funniest comedy since The Hangover – the real Hangover, not this year’s lame sequel. In fact, it is everything you might have wanted a Hangover sequel to be. … Characters actually die or are otherwise destroyed at the end of Horrible Bosses, but by then the victims have become so cartoony it hardly registers as a loss. This is pure, unbeatable comic escapism. 

Nick Shager, Slant Magazine

On the frat-comedy tolerance scale, Horrible Bosses just about breaks even, partaking in easy jabs at Indian phone-support reps and casting women as driven only by their nether regions (be it Aniston's libidinous lunatic or Julie Bowen's promiscuous wife), and yet also pointedly mocking its protagonists' reflexive racism toward African Americans and avoiding the genre's usual homophobia.

Edward Douglas, Coming Soon

Like "The Hangover," the genius of "Horrible Bosses" lies in the fact it takes the simplest of concepts and builds upon it with hilarious non-stop laughs. It's dark fun that works better than expected due to a well-developed script, an impeccable cast and a director who knows how to put the two together and let fireworks fly without micro-managing... just like the best bosses.

This article is related to: Genres, Headliners, Reviews, comedy, Colin Farrell


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.