I recall reading something a year or two ago about employee dissatisfaction. It commented that it tended to increase during times of economic trouble because employees who felt unhappy in the workplace didn’t have the ability to escape. They were stuck with their current jobs, since leaving might mean they couldn’t find another one. They also seldom got sympathy from other people who said, “Hey, at least you have a job!” This reached its culmination for me when the place where I worked put up a motivational poster that said, I kid you not, “I should be grateful I have a job.” Indeed.
In this time of economic troubles, it’s perhaps surprising that a movie like this, where three friends get together to kill each other’s horrible bosses, hasn’t come along already. Well, it sort of did in 1980 with 9 to 5, but that was a bit different. I don’t think I recall Franklin Hart, Jr, shooting anyone.
The movie’s title bosses are a corporate president (Kevin Spacey), a cokehead who inherited his father’s chemical company (Colin Farrell), and, in one of the funnier performances, a dentist who doubles as a sexual predator (Jennifer Aniston). Their oppressed employees are, respectively, a man who is working hard for a position the corporate president takes for himself (Jason Bateman), a hard-working employee who loved the cokehead’s father (Jason Sudekis), and a dental hygienist/sex offender who is recently engaged (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s Charlie Day). One night while mutually commiserating with each other in a bar a plan begins to take shape. What if they killed their bosses? Soon they have a “murder consultant” in the form of one MF Jones (Jamie Foxx), and, with vague memories that confuse Strangers on a Train with Throw Momma From the Train, the make ready to make murder.
I had no great expectations going into this film, but I was surprised at how enjoyable it was and how much I liked it (also surprising? The ten-year-old boy sitting next me. Some parents…). The film is as raunchy as you’d expect any adult-oriented comedy to be, but it uses its raunch to great effect. There’s the expected jokes centering around sex and bodily functions, but nothing too extreme.
I was also surprised at how intelligent the movie is. At the start I was coming up with objections to the notion that the characters needed to kill their bosses instead of just get new ones, only to find the screenplay explaining why they couldn’t just up and quit. I was also greatly amused when the friends ran into a former pal of theirs who’d lost his last job with Lehman Brothers and since had been forced to resort to offering a “hearty handshake”, as it were, to men in bars.
The performances were excellent all around. Spacey in particular seemed to be having a great time playing a deliciously evil man, while Aniston was clearly happy to ditch her good girl image. Day, who is a relative newcomer to film, plays a character not dissimilar to that of Charlie Kelly, proves that he can certainly hold his own on the screen with the big boys (and girl).
The movie is ably directed by Seth Gordon, who keeps the action moving at a decent, but not frenetic, pace. He also knows when to throw in a good Tarantino homage. It’s produced by the somewhat infamous Brett Ratner who proves that as a director, he makes for an acceptable producer.
This isn’t the best comedy ever, but it was a good time at the movies, and after a summer that’s included films like the rather dull Green Lantern and the aggressively boring Transformers: Bark at the Moon, I’ll take what I can get.