Apr 8, 2016

Alternative to What: "Horrible Bosses" (2011)

Scene from Horrible Bosses
Welcome to Alternative to What: a weekly column that tries to find a great alternative to driving to the multiplexes. Based on releases of that week, the selections will either be thematically related or feature recurring cast and crew. The goal is to help you better understand the diversity of cinema and hopefully find you some favorites while saving a few bucks. At worse, this column will save you money. Expect each installment to come out on Fridays, unless specified. 

Horrible Bosses (2011)
- Alternative To -
The Boss (2016)

It is a desolate week for new movie releases, which makes having to find an alternative to The Boss a rather difficult assignment. Do you go with the Melissa McCarthy route and simply say Bridesmaids? Do you go with any other raunchy female comedy? In all honesty, The Boss looks awful and I'm still unsure why McCarthy has any die hard supporters. However, this week has one thing in common that isn't immediately clear: bosses. Both of them are horrible, but for different reasons. In the case of The Boss, McCarthy is so bad that she goes to jail and sends juveniles to fight each other. Horrible Bosses on the other hand seems like the perfect retaliation.
The premise is novel and actually one that likely has been thought of constantly. Horrible Bosses is a story in which three friends decide to kill their three different bosses. With the comedic talents of Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, and Jason Sudeikis, the comedy manages to play into a primal fear that hadn't fully been realized since Office Space a decade prior. Work sucks, and sometimes it isn't the hours that are dull. It's the bosses who harass you and demand an embarrassing dedication to their work. In this case, it's a mixture of sexual harassment and verbal abuse. It's the perfect formula for a dark comedy, and one that somehow spawned a sequel with even more bosses to kill just to prove how limitless this gimmick is in making it the Death Wish of the comedy world.
The one thing that does work is the chemistry between the three leads. With the general set-up, things immediately kick into gear as the script presents the conflict. These are in fact horrible bosses and in most cases, they will die. However, the film avoids merely being a mean-spirited fantasy film. Along with Jamie Foxx in a supporting role as the hitman named Motherf**ker Jones, the actual kills play out in comical fashion that manage to thankfully keep the leads from ever seeming like irredeemable jerks. They always come across as blue collar heroes, fighting their way through a series of delightfully absurd moments.

If nothing else, Horrible Bosses does one thing right, which is comedy. While in some sense it is an office version of The Hangover, it manages to escape any sense of hollowness by simply being a fun exploration of office politics. It does help that the cast, yes even the bosses, are at the top of their game and create complicated dynamics within a fairly straightforward premise. There's even a few twists along the way to keep the story interesting. While the sequel failed to capture the success of the first, it definitely has a solid formula in this cast. Maybe there shouldn't be too many Horrible Boss sequels, but there should definitely be more Sudeikis-Day-Bateman productions in the works.
It may be unfortunate to choose this movie solely because of how horrible The Boss looks, but it should also serve as a template for what a good R-Rated broad comedy could be. I'm sure that there's many other films that could be more relative to the subject matter, but at the end of the day I want to suggest a comedy that actually is funny. Office Space isn't thematically close enough to qualify. That is why Horrible Bosses, besides forming a terrible pun, is my pick and evidence that you can make bosses that are obnoxious and still enjoyable within the context of a film.

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