Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Sexual harrassment isn't funny...

...except when it's hilarious.

So, I watched Horrible Bosses last week. Late to the party, I know, as usual, but I was watching it at a second-run cinema where you can sprawl in a comfy, battered office chair, drink beer, and eat fries. Nothing makes a comedy funnier than liberally applying a few pitchers of Yuengling.

Also it just took me four tries to properly spell Yuengling.

I have a complicated relationship with comedy because I love it when it's done well, but I think it's one of the trickiest genres to get right, as a legion of recent flops - and anything with Ryan Reynolds - will tell you.

Horrible Bosses features a trio of indescriminate white guys, Nick (Jason Bateman), Dale (Charlie Day of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia), and Kurt (Jason Sudeikis).

Nick, Dale, and Kurt meet to quaff beers and complain about their horrible bosses, respectively being: Dave, one megalomaniac played by Kevin Spacey; Julia, a nympho dentist who likes spraying Dale with the Water-Pik and molesting the patients (Jennifer Aniston), and Bobby, played by Colin Farrell sporting a bald-cap/combover combination as the cokehead wastrel son who inherits the business from his saintly father and promptly starts spending the profits on hookers, blow, and (I imagine) a lot of Ed Hardy-brand bedazzled clothing.

My voice is deeper than this guy's.
Day's Dale steals the movie as a weird combination of delicate hipster/Elmo doll, with perpetually wide eyes, a voice that sounds like it never got past adolescence, and a scrubby goatee. The unapologetically over-the-top Julia gropes Dale, greets him in her office wearing a lab coat and not much else, and threatens to e-mail pictures of an unconscious Dale sprawled naked in the dentist's chair to Dale's winsomely adorable fiancee.

I'm not sure why they skipped completely over "report her to the state licensing board" and went straight to "hire some guy to kill her," but whatever. A running gag about Dale's inability to find another job because he's a sex offender (for drunkenly peeing on an empty playground at midnight) is either a clever statement about the flawed American justice system or a particularly tasteless joke - I can't decide which.

Of course, Bateman plays the straight guy here, with that exasperated clenched-jaw, hands-on-hips pose he does so well. Of the three, his boss is the most literally menacing, a sociopath whose abusive relationship with his wife is played for laughs.

The hapless trio try to hire a hitman off of Craigslist, with predictably zany results, then wander into a bar and hire the first tattooed, trench-coated thug they see: Jamie Lee Foxx's motormouthed felon, the memorably named Motherfucker Jones, who agrees to serve as their "murder consultant."

Hijinks ensue, someone actually does get bumped off, identities are mistaken, male bonding is had, and because this is a black comedy but still a comedy, it wraps up pretty well for everyone involved. Much of the movie's hilarity - of which there is a lot - is due to Spacey, Aniston, and Farrell's willingness to go all-out and push their characters beyond the realm of believability, turning them into oversized caricatures. The movie drew a lot of flak for jokes that veered into misogyny, racism, and homophobia - the bar scenes with Foxx are wince-inducing and Kurt is routinely busted for trying to pull the fist-bumping "My man!" routine - but the movie is also larded with enough silliness to defuse its crassness.

Perhaps what makes Horrible Bosses so weirdly palatable - so bizarrely refreshing - is that, whether by accident or design, it has a thumb on the pulse of the Zeitgeist. Nick, Dale, and Kurt can't get new jobs (a run-in with a friend, formerly employed by Lehmann Brothers and now reduced to turning tricks in the bar bathroom, underscores that point) because the economy sucks, so they're stuck where they are, with sadistic bosses who growl I own you and threaten them with blackmail.

Unlike a rash of movies that badly misjudged what viewers were willing to tolerate - the absolutely odious and disgusting Confessions of a Shopaholic and recent flop I Don't Know How She Does It (does what? Tolerate having a high-paying job, sweet New York townhouse, and wealthy husband? God, what a row to hoe), among others, Horrible Bosses hits the nerve of desperation and at-least-I'm-employed-pathos that's so prevalent right now.

1 comment:

  1. You had me at Jason Bateman. Because, well, Arrested Development.