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THIS REVIEW DEALS WITH GRAPHIC SEXUAL CONTENT AND IS NOT APPROPRIATE FOR CHILDREN.

MPAA Rating
Credits
Genre
Comedy
Cast
Jason Bateman as Nick Hendricks; Jason Sudeikis as Kurt Buckman; Charlie Day as Dale Arbus; Kevin Spacey as Dave Harken; Colin Farrell as Bobby Pellit; Jennifer Aniston as Dr. Julia Harris; Jamie Foxx as Dean Jones; Lindsay Sloane as Stacy; Donald Sutherland as Jack Pellit; Julie Bowen as Rhonda Harken; Brian George as Atmanand
Director
Seth Gordon (Four Christmases)
Distributor
Warner Bros., New Line Cinema
In Theaters
July 8, 2011
On Video
October 11, 2011
Reviewer
Adam R. Holz
Horrible Bosses

Horrible Bosses

"I work for the Antichrist."

That's how Nick Hendricks describes his horrible boss to buddies Kurt and Dale over happy-hour draughts. He's "extra evil," Nick adds, for emphasis.

And so he is.

Nick's slaved for years to earn a promotion at Comnidyne, putting up with the tyrannical whims of the brokerage's despotic president, Dave Harken. But when Harken decides to make himself vice president of sales (and gives himself an 85% raise for the trouble), Nick snaps … and sadistic Harken snaps back. "I own you," he spits. "So settle in."

Things aren't going much better for Kurt and Dale.

Kurt seemed to be heir apparent at the family-owned business Pellit & Son. After the founder's untimely passing, however, the Son part of that equation gets messy fast, with cocaine-addled Bobby Pellit assuming command. On his first day as boss, Bobby informs Kurt it's time to trim the fat. Literally. "I want you to fire the fat people," he instructs. "You can start with large Marge." Things deteriorate from there, as Bobby begins partying with prostitutes … in his office … during the workday. And he's shamelessly eager to appropriate company funds to fuel his hedonistic pursuits.

All Dale ever wanted, meanwhile, was to be a doting husband. And the earnest dental assistant is on the verge of realizing that dream with his sweet fiancée, Stacy. There's just one problem: His boss, dentist Julia Harris, is an insatiable sexual predator. She'll stop at nothing to seduce poor Dale—often as they work on anesthetized patients together.

As the drinks and horror stories pile up, an offhand joke about offing their bosses somehow takes root as an actionable idea. "You would have to admit our lives would be easier if our bosses weren't alive," Kurt suggests. "[They're] going to die eventually anyway. We'd just be accelerating that natural process. … If one evil person has to die for the greater good, so be it."

Dale's dismayed. "I don't care how bad our bosses are," he says. "We're not murderers."

But when Julia tries to blackmail him into having sex with her the very next day, threatening to show Stacy some steamy, seemingly incriminating pictures she took of him while he was unconscious and ostensibly getting dental work done, even Dale snaps.

"I'm in," he proclaims. "Let's kill this b‑‑ch." And the other two horrible bosses, too.

Positive Elements

Bright spots in Horrible Bosses are very few. Dale's fidelity to Stacy is one of them. He waxes poetic about the fact that all he ever wanted was to be a husband. He rightly describes Julia's utterly inappropriate, immoral and illegal behavior as harassment and perhaps even rape (speaking of the incident in which he was photographed with her while unconscious). He stoically resists Julia's escalating attempts to have her carnal way with him, even though his friends repeatedly wonder why he doesn't just give in.

Despite their initial enthusiasm for the plot to murder their supervisors, the guys eventually voice doubts about going through with it. In the end, they don't actually kill any of their bosses (though one of them does get murdered).

Spiritual Content

A crude reference to the Sabbath and the Jewish ritual of circumcision. Nick dubs Harken the "Antichrist."

Sexual Content

Much of Horrible Bosses' mammoth quantities of sexual content centers on Jennifer Aniston's character, Julia. In the film's production notes, director Seth Gordon says, "What I love about the character is how masculine she is in her sexual appetite. … Dr. Harris is a predator, like a lion. They don't feel one way or another, they just have to feed. It was really important to find an actress who could play Julia with all the intensity and delicious naughtiness the role deserves."

Julia is predatory. At virtually every juncture at which she's alone with a male, she's sexualizing the relationship. And most of her lines involve detailed, pornographic descriptions of what she would like to do to the men and to herself while thinking about them. She also verbalizes what she wants them to do to her. She often relies upon the f-word to make her point. In one scene, she invites Dale into her office and locks the door behind him; she's wearing only panties and a completely unbuttoned doctor's coat.

Julia squirts water on Dale's crotch and talks about how she can clearly see the outline of his penis. She grabs the hand of an unconscious patient and puts it on her (clothed) breast as she works. She yanks down the pants of a patient to look at and comment on his (underwear-clad) anatomy. She suggests that she and Dale have sex on top of a gassed Stacy. And she demands (by way of blackmail) that Dale talk dirty to her on the phone, complaining when he isn't graphic enough. We see her bare shoulders as she masturbates under the bubbles in her bathtub. Elsewhere, she licks Dale's neck, nibbles his ear, pinches his nipples and tries to straddle him.

Kurt is doing surveillance at Julia's house when she comes home, disrobes to her panties and bra in front of an open window, and suggestively eats a popsicle, a banana and a hot dog. Later we learn that she invited him in for a tryst, and that he accepted.

Kurt also stumbles out of a room with Harken's wife, and dialogue implies that they had sex. He regularly makes crass and vulgar comments about women he's attracted to.

There are multiple references made to the fact that Dale is a registered sex offender. His crime? Urinating on a school playground at night with no children present—a fact he keeps repeating whenever anyone calls him a sexual criminal. That joke serves as a precursor of sorts for a scene in which the guys hire a man for "wetwork," a term they mistakenly believe is a synonym for killing someone. Turns out he's a man who gets paid to urinate on other men.

Other sexual content includes two scenes of Bobby kissing and licking lingerie-clad prostitutes; a reference to Nick's lack of sex and subsequent need to masturbate; an old friend of the guys who offers to manually stimulate them in a bar bathroom for a fee; and a conversation about whether Kurt or Nick would be more "rape-able" in prison.

Violent Content

Before the guys formulate their plan, Nick fantasizes about throwing Harken out of his high-rise office window and watching with satisfaction as he hits a car in the parking lot below. Once they decide to do the deed, the guys try to hire a hit man. They think they've got a deal with Dean Jones (who goes by the unsavory nickname "m‑‑‑‑‑f‑‑‑er" because he stole money as a kid from his drunk, naked, passed-out mom). But Jones gets cold feet and tells them instead he'll be their "murder consultant," after which he offers vague tips on how to make the act look like an accident or a suicide.

Dale accidentally exposes Harken to peanut butter, which causes an allergic reaction. Then he repeatedly stabs Harken's chest with an EpiPen, ironically saving his life—and earning jeers from his friends.

Harken eventually realizes what Nick, Kurt and Dale are up to, threatens to kill them, chases them madly with his SUV (ramming their car repeatedly) and finally shoots himself in the leg in a failed attempt to frame them. Another man dies when he's shot in the chest and in the head.

Crude or Profane Language

Nearly 250 profanities, vulgarities and obscenities, including well over 100 uses of the f-word (a good-sized minority of which are paired with "mother"), 40 s-words, 20 misuses of God's name (often combined with "d‑‑n") and half-a-dozen abuses of Jesus' name. We also hear 20 or more exclamations of various exceptionally crude slang terms for both the male and female anatomy, often in the context of sexual acts. "F-ggot" and "gay" are used as derogatory slurs.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Sneaking into Bobby's house, Dale and Kurt find a massive container of cocaine … and Dale accidentally drops it, filling the air and carpet with the drug. They try to clean it up and get high in the process.

The guys drink at their preferred bar a couple of times, and it's implied that they've had a few rounds by the time they first hatch the idea of murder. Two other scenes take place in another bar where they meet Dean Jones. Harken practically forces Nick to have a glass of Scotch at 8:15 in the morning one day, then uses the incident against him later by suggesting that Nick has a drinking problem. Other scenes picture people consuming wine, beer, champagne and margaritas.

Other Negative Elements

In Bobby's house, Kurt shoves the man's toothbrush vigorously down the back of his pants and (it seems) up into his rear as well. To get out of work, Nick sticks a pen down his throat to induce vomiting.

Bobby is keen to cut his company's costs any way he can, even if it means an immigrant group is exposed to chemical waste. In addition to mocking an overweight female employee, he refers to a wheelchair-bound employee as "Professor X" and says that he wants to fire him. Harken jokes about Nick's deceased grandmother. Several "giggles" come at the expense of an ancillary Indian character's name.

Conclusion

"I've never played a character so inexcusably raunchy, and there was no way I could resist it—the dialogue and the situations are so outrageous and fun. I jumped at it immediately," says Jennifer Aniston of her role as Julia. "It really stretches the limits and crosses boundaries, and Dr. Harris is way out in front on all counts: Guilty as charged."

Well. I'm hard-pressed to come up with better descriptors for this film than those Aniston has already assigned: Horrible Bosses is indeed "inexcusably raunchy" and "outrageous" as it "stretches the limits and crosses boundaries."

Then, in addition to the rampant obscenities and flood of nonstop sexual content, there's the premise itself: murdering three bosses who make their employees' lives miserable. Though this is obviously a dark comedy, merely suggesting that someone might/should/would consider killing his superior at work is still very problematic territory in a world where unstable workers do occasionally "go postal," as we've come to call it in our culture.

Jason Sudeikis, who plays Kurt, says he was surprised to hear how many people had harbored this dark fantasy: "Actually, in discussing the movie, I discovered that a lot more people have wanted to kill their bosses than I would have guessed."

Great. So let's celebrate those disturbing daydreams with a film, shall we? Horrible bosses? Sadly, there are some. Horrible movies? This one more than qualifies.


Read "Jennifer Aniston and the New F-Word," Adam Holz's blog entry on how one word in Horrible Bosses caused an uproar.

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