Director Seth Gordon's ensemble comedy is about how our tough economic times have destroyed white-collar, white-male masculinity. Three high-school friends—weakling dental hygienist Dale (Charlie Day), chemical-company accountant Kurt (Jason Sudeikis), and unspecified corporate drone Nick (Jason Bateman)—are, at 40ish, each facing intractable career obstacles in the form of impossible supervisors. The three put-upon employees regularly meet for drinks to commiserate; one night they have too many and decide that since the economy is so bad and they're too afraid to actually quit and be left with nothing, the only way up the career ladder is to eliminate their bosses. As Gordon sleepwalks through the montages and set-pieces that will get our boys from drunken violent fantasy to clean-handed happy ending, Horrible Bosses is rarely actually laugh-out-loud funny, and never truly dark or daring. In a two-scene cameo, a knowing Jamie Foxx delivers the kind of minor pleasure you savor in a film that's too often off-speed. Unfortunately, his character, an ex-con turned "murder consultant," exists to offer a token acknowledgment of Dale, Kurt, and Nick's knee-jerk racism, indicating that the filmmakers are expecting a pass for all the stereotypes they are serving. But there's no such get-out-of-jail-free card for Horrible Bosses' all-encompassing fear of sex—hetero and homo, consensual and otherwise. The specter of would-be powerful white dudes getting raped emerges in Horrible Bosses so often that it transcends subtext to become the film's primary subject.
Jennifer Aniston as one of said horrible bosses.
Opens at Meridian and other theaters, Fri., July 8. Rated R. 93 minutes.