I admit that I am usually disappointed by American comedies. Most of them are just not funny. Yet once in a while I inexplicably feel a calling to head to a movie theater and watch one of them. I guess it's the optimist in me, because I find very few of them to be sharp, witty, inventive or surprising - elements that I think make for good comedy.
And so I went to see Horrible Bosses, perhaps lured by the promise of gallows humor or at least a sexed-up Jennifer Aniston. And I was, once again, disappointed.
The movie's plot: Three put-upon friends (Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis) are so fed up with their unrepentantly nasty employers (Kevin Spacey, Aniston, Colin Farrell, respectively) that they agree that the only way to deal with them is to murder them.
Right off the bat, you can sense the number one problem with Horrible Bosses: the unbelievability of its premise. The script (by two TV writers and young actor John Francis Daley, from Freaks and Geeks and Bones) halfheartedly explains why these three sane, apparently competent men - with no families or major financial responsibilities - can't simply quit their jobs and move on with their lives, but it fails to convince.
Coupled with the equally unrealistic antics of their abhorrent supervisors (in particular Aniston's sexual obsession with the hoarse, hyperactive Day), this movie asks for one gigantic suspension of disbelief from its audience. It's not gonna get it, so all we can hope for are a few good laughs. And there are a few good laughs. But not enough to make it worth our time.
The issue I have with Horrible Bosses is that it wants to be a lighthearted black comedy. But you can't make a black comedy with a light heart! You need a satirical edge, a sense of the macabre, a willingness to make your audience uncomfortable. Director Gordon and his writers have none of that. In order for the story to work, at least one of our protagonists has to be a little scary, the sort of guy who could kill someone after being pushed to the edge. But Gordon et al - or maybe just the studio - must have thought that would be a downer.
Although I'm thankful that Horrible Bosses neither aims for pathos nor relies on gross-out gags, and I liked some of the plot twists in the third act, this movie simply has no bite.