Thursday, July 7, 2011

This week's mega-helping of vulgar fun

Another movie for fans of rude/crude humor.
If you've been hankering to watch Jennifer Aniston play dirty dentist, the new comedy Horrible Bosses is eager to oblige. So is Aniston, who turns out to be good at flaunting her character's maniacal libido.

Working overtime to turn out more of the rude/crude humor that has become a Hollywood staple, Horrible Bosses follows the antics of three bumbling employees who vow to kill their abusive bosses, one of them played by Aniston.

Heavier on raunch than wit, Horrible Bosses begins when our hapless heroes (Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis) decide their sanity depends on getting rid of the aggressively vile people for whom they work.

It's difficult to watch Horrible Bosses without thinking that the filmmakers are looking for increasingly outrageous ways to walk through the door thrown open by raunch masters such as Judd Apatow (The 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up) and Todd Phillips (the Hangover movies).

As was the case with those movies, fans of purposefully tasteless humor should find laughs in a movie about downtrodden employees who know nothing about murder, which means they probably don't watch enough TV.

Not surprisingly, the movie's extremely horrible bosses serve up an exaggerated variety behavior that in real life would result in more lawsuits than laughter.

In a role that amounts to a cliche for him, Kevin Spacey plays the sadistic head of the financial company where Bateman's character works. He teases Bateman's Nick with promises of a promotion. He forces him to drink a glass of 18-year-old Scotch at 8:15 in the morning, and then accuses him of having a drinking problem. He's a humiliation specialist.

Colin Farrell -- whose main job here seems to involve not looking like himself -- portrays the odious Bobby Pellitt, the cocaine-snorting son of the kindly owner of a chemical company (Donald Sutherland). Sutherland's character dies within the first 15 minutes, leaving the company to his hateful son.

Taking a break from mediocre romantic comedies, Aniston portrays a sex-crazed dentist who insists that her assistant (Day) sleep with her. It's an impolite, turn-the-tables role in which a woman sexually harasses her male employee.

An underutilized and funny Jamie Foxx plays an ex-convict, a guy our trio of bumblers seeks out in a divey bar. For $5,000, Foxx's character -- whose name can't be printed here -- becomes what he calls "a murder consultant."

His idea: To avoid establishing any motives, the boys should kill one another's bosses, a plan that evokes references to (and jokes about) Alfred Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train.

Horrible Bosses does little more than look for ways to keep the jokestream flowing. Nothing wrong with that, but a joke about spilled cocaine? Really?

When it comes to comedy, especially vulgar ones, I feel duty-bound to distinguish the audience reaction from my own. I'd say that the preview audience with which I saw the movie found it funnier than I did. Me? The thing that made me chuckle the most -- aside from Foxx -- was one of the lines Sudeikis, as the over-sexed male in the group, delivers during the obligatory outtakes.

During the movie, Bateman and Sudeikis do a decent job of carrying the banter load with Day working at the more exasperated end of the spectrum. It also should be pointed out that for all its vulgarity,Horrible Bosses isn't nearly as corrosive as Hangover 2.

Once you adjust to director Seth Gordon's comic style, you can see many of the jokes coming. Some will make you yuk. Others will make you duck. How you respond to this ribald helping of humor probably depends on whether you're doing more of the former than the latter.

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