Monday, July 11, 2011

Horrible Bosses [2011]

MPAA (R) CNS/USCCB (O) Roger Ebert (3 ½ stars) Fr Dennis (2 ½ stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB review
Roger Ebert’s review

Horrible Bosses (directed by Seth Gordon and cowritten by Michael Markowitz, John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein) is a dark appropriately R-rated comedy which indulges the fantasy of “knocking off” an irritating or overbearing boss.

Three friends, Nick Hendricks (played by Jason Bateman), Dale Arbus (played by Charlie Day) and Kurt Buckman (played by Jason Sukeikis) each find themselves in unbearable work situations. 

Nick, a “suit” in some kind of an accounting firm works for Dave Harken (played by Kevin Spacey) a sadistic man who’s willing to fire the firm’s head of maintenance when he catches Nick in a lie.  The surveillance cam had time-stamped Nick’s entry into the office at 8:02:35 AM one morning and Dave asks Nick about this, he replies that he “couldn’t have been more than a minute late.” “So the clock on the surveillance cam must be wrong, and must have been wrong for a very long time." Dave reaches for the phone to call in the head maintenance man to fire him.  Nick unwilling to see an innocent man fired over this confesses that “he may have been two to two and a half minutes late.”  This is the kind of stuff you’d imagine under Stalin or Saddam Hussein...

Dale finds himself a dental assistant for a very horny Dr. Julia Harris, D.D.S. (played by Jennifer Aniston) who tells Dale that unless he sleeps with her, she’ll tell his fiancĂ© that he’s sleeping with her.  This actually sounds a lot like the story of Joseph in Genesis where Joseph ends up in a dungeon after refusing to sleep with his Egyptian master’s wife.  Since he refused to do so, she denounced him for attempting to do so ... (Genesis 39:1-23).  Why would Dale put up with this extortion?  Well, found himself “registered for life” on a _sex offender list_ for “publicly exposing himself on a playground.”  Awful, huh?  Well, he was caught by a police officer urinating on a tree after midnight one night as he was coming home from a bar located next to the playground... "It's all a terrible 'zoning error'" he protests to his two friends, who find Dale's tragic story worthy of endless ribbing at Dale's expense.  Being a “registered sex offender” _no one_ but someone like Dr. Harris would hire Dale.

Kurt was happy working as an accountant for a small chemical company, until the founder, Jack Pelitt (played by Donald Sutherland) died suddenly of a heart attack, leaving the firm to his coke-head son, Bobby Pelitt (played by Colin Farrell) bent on driving the firm into the ground, killing a whole lot of innocent workers in all kinds of third world countries in the process. 

So the three would meet frequently in a bar, talking of their woes, and the idea enters their heads (a la Raskolnikov in Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment) that the world would be a whole lot better if these three parasitic/evil doer bosses were dead.

But how to do so?  Well they first try to hire a hit man.  They ask the assistant on Nick’s Onstar-like GPS service for his Toyota Prius to “find them a bar in the seediest part of town.”  Indian accented “George” (voice by Brian George) actually named Atmanand but nobody could pronounce his name, so that’s why he went by “George” tells them that their service doesn’t list bars by “crime density.”  Nevertheless, he finds them an appropriate dive, where after a few “missteps” they find a man with an “Unspeakable first name” (at least on this blog ;-) Jones (played by Jamie Foxx) who says that he’ll help them for five grand given to him in a briefcase.  Actually he asks initially for far more, but he’s a terrible negotiator ;-) The three agree.

The next day they meet “Unspeakable name” Jones with their five grand in a brief case, which Kurt notes is “far larger” than the stack of 20 dollar bills equaling five thousand dollars required ;-).  “Unspeakable name” Jones then tells them that he _won’t_ kill the three bosses (because he “did a dime of hard time” for a crime already) but he would serve as a “consultant” for them.  Nick questions whether the advice he gives them is really worth the five grand.  But they are too nice to ask for the money back.  Later the three find out that “Unspeakable name” Jones did 10 years for getting caught with a video camera “pirating” the film Snow Falling on Cedars a beautiful and very, very sad _art film_ that was the exact opposite of anything that a hard core criminal _should have done 10 years for_ ;-).

By this point, I think one would probably have a feeling of the sense of the humor present in this movie.  Yes, it is crude, but the protagonists in this movie are all basically decent schmucks.  Do they succeed in murdering their three evil bosses?  I think you can guess.  And remember that this is a Hollywood comedy, so it all ends both satisfactorily and well. 

Why review a movie like this?  Well, as long as there have been bosses, there have been lousy ones.  In fact, since _work_ like _family_ has been part of human experience since the beginning, it should not be surprising that there are actually plenty of “evil boss” stories in the Bible as well:

I mentioned one above (the story of Joseph being blackmailed by his Egyptian master’s wife).  There was also Jacob’s step father Laban, who was a con-man from whom Jacob had to finally run away.  And then there was “the psycho” Saul, the first King of Israel, who was initially David’s “boss."  Saul was “moody,” that’s why David was hired by Saul’s court, to soothe him with his music (1 Sam 16:14-23).  And Saul, later became so jealous of David’s military successes that he wanted David dead.  In a famous passage, however, David and his compatriots once came upon Saul in his sleep and one of David's friends even asked David for permission to kill Saul in revenge, "God has delivered your enemy into your grasp this day. Let me nail him to the ground with one thrust of the spear; I will not need a second thrust!" (1 Sam 26:8).  David being a good guy, turns down the favor.

So stories of ‘bad bosses’ and dealing with ‘bad bosses’ has been part of our tradition since the very beginning. 

Then regarding the crudity of this story, just take a look at some of the stories in the Book of Judges, notably the story of Ehud the Assassin, who killed the _really fat_ King of Moab (Judges 3:12-22) or the Jael, the Israelite woman who lured the enemy general Sisera into her tent only to drive a stake into his head when he was asleep (Judges 4:17-22).

Finally, while I do have to say that the first Hangover movie (a movie that was actually far cruder than Horrible Bosses) did indeed make me blush (and I didn't see the second one), I do have to add that _a truly remarkable and diverse number of parishioners_ at my current parish in Chicago did with total sincerity express to me how much they liked that movie (The Hangover) and recommended it to me.  One could be distressed by this or even appalled.  But one could _also_ recognize that there must have been something about that movie (and I suspect this one) that really appeals to people.  And that appeal can not be simply negative.

Ultimately, Horrible Bosses is an “escapist fantasy,” born of the experience of knowing that there are some really bad bosses out there.  Additionally, the economy’s lousy now and people have to put up with perhaps more nonsense at work than when times were better.   So I think that this is part of the reason why this film was made and why it "works" now.

I found the movie reasonably funny.  The three schmucks plus their unspeakably named mentor (who turns out to be something of a schmuck as well) are all endearing.  Their bosses are all presented as "evil" and “deserve badness” to rain down upon them.  But the movie certainly isn't for everyone.  The R-rating is fully justified and I wouldn’t recommend the movie to people who really don’t like crudity or bad language.

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1 comment:

  1. I thought this was pretty funny. Bateman, Day and Sudeikis had really great chemistry and Aniston, Spacey, and Farrell were all pretty evil and villainous as the bosses.. I did wish it would have gotten a bit darker with it's subject at certain times but overall, pretty good I thought. Good Review! Check out mine when you can!