"Horrible Bosses" tells a story that feels just believable enough to work, and it's got a great cast at its disposal that is consistently funny. But the film doesn’t quite kill.
Five years ago -- before hard-R comedies like "The Hangover" and "Knocked Up" -- "Horrible Bosses" might have felt fresh. Instead, it's a second-tier effort that'll leave you amused, but won’t change your life.
Alfred Hitchcock's "Strangers on a Train" was first tweaked for comedy some 20 years ago in "Throw Momma From the Train." This time it's the inspiration for "Bosses," in which Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day are three friends who agree to murder each other's tormentors.
In a time when nearly one in 10 adults is out of work, you'd think a crappy boss would be the least of your problems. But sometimes working for The Man can get you down, leaving you with no choice but to kill him -- or her.
Bateman is a suit-and-tie cog abused mercilessly by Kevin Spacey doing his best "Kevin Spacey in 'Swimming With Sharks'" impersonation. Sudeikis is an accountant at a small family business run by Colin Farrell, a coke-addled jerk who can't even do his employees the courtesy of closing the blinds when he's entertaining prostitutes in his office. Day is a happily engaged dental assistant who suffers a ceaseless torrent of sexual harassment at the hands of Jennifer Aniston.
Charlie Day is one of America's great underappreciated comedic talents. For years he's been doing brilliant work on "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," and last summer's team-up with Sudeikis made "Going the Distance," an otherwise tedious romcom, at least watchable. He's just inherently funny.
And Farrell, who proved himself years ago to be a talented comedian, playing a tough-guy assassin in "In Bruges," delivers yet again, this time as a combed-over, pot-bellied, kung-fu-loving prick. Whoever thought to put him in this role deserves a shiny trophy. Aniston is funny and sexy -- as sexy as a sexual predator can be, anyway -- but her pursuit of Day feels strained. With all due respect to Mr. Day, he ain't exactly catnip.
Director Seth Gordon, the genius behind the documentary "The King of Kong" and a veteran of consistently funny TV comedies like "Community," Parks and Recreation," and "Modern Family," handles the material well. It just doesn't quite find that extra gear.
"Horrible Bosses" opens nationally today, you can find our interview with screenwriters Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley here.