It takes a special actor to engender sympathy for a heterosexual male character traumatized by the constant sexual advances of his dentist boss, who happens to be played by a scantily clad, ragingly profane Jennifer Aniston in full-on sex-bomb mode. Convincing audiences that an apparent male sexual fantasy is actually a nightmare takes talent. Thankfully, Charlie Day of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia is exactly that kind of actor. In Horrible Bosses, the innocence of his dewily romantic dental assistant renders his mortification over Aniston’s aggressive sexual demands shockingly convincing. In the grand tradition of scene-stealers, Day seems to inhabit a different, more interesting universe than everyone else, so it makes sense that his motivations and desires would be a little different as well.
Day, Saturday Night Live’s Jason Sudeikis, and Jason Bateman star as three middle-aged friends withering under the iron rule of three nightmare bosses. Bateman lives in fear of cold-blooded bully Kevin Spacey. Sudeikis despises debauched cokehead asshole Colin Farrell, and Day does not care for the aforementioned Aniston. In a fit of bleak inspiration, the luckless trio decides they need to murder their respective superiors, and they make the mistake of enlisting a funny Jamie Foxx (who is almost always better in character parts than leads) to help them in the task.
Horrible Bosses succeeds almost entirely on the chemistry of its three leads, who remain likeable even while resorting to homicide. The serviceable-at-best direction and screenplay mainly serve to facilitate improv and a handful of scatological setpieces, but the acting more than compensates for the film’s other failings. Bateman proves, as always, an ideal straight man, while Sudeikis more or less recycles his glibly appealing turn as Owen Wilson’s horndog sidekick in Hall Pass, but Horrible Bosses belongs to Day. In the film’s funniest scene, a coked-up Day rocks out to The Ting Tings’ “That’s Not My Name” in a car in a state of ecstatic frenzy. It’s a virtuoso solo turn from a wild-card actor who excels in groups of three, and a potent illustration of how a brilliant character actor with a spark of madness can elevate a ramshackle lowbrow farce into a solid mainstream comedy through sheer force of charisma.