This is the chortle-inducing comedy that "The Hangover Part 2" should have been: a wild, unpredictable romp riddled with sex, violence, vulgarity and characters too intelligence-inhibited to do much beyond hanging on for their diminished lives as the icky stuff hits the fan.
Seth Gordon's succinctly titled "Horrible Bosses" offers an inebriated story that winds all over the narrative road, bumping into mistaken identities, peanut allergies, sexual indiscretions and quasi-dark jokes that, frankly, don't go far enough to milk the insane and ridiculous premise for all it's worth.
"Horrible Bosses"★ ★ ★
Starring: Jason Sudeikis, Jason Bateman, Kevin Spacey, Charlie Day, Jennifer Aniston, Colin Farrell
Directed by: Seth Gordon
Other: A Warner Bros. release. Rated R for language, drug use and sexual situations. 97 minutes.
Yet, "Horrible Bosses" has high points of hilarity provided by its trio of well-wrought office villains and the charismatic snap between its three principal protagonists, none of whom will ever win points for good judgment.
Reasonable, subservient company man Nick (Jason Bateman) can't believe that his insensitive boss (Kevin Spacey on acerbic overdrive) would dangle an office promotion in front of him for months, then take the job (and extra pay) for himself.
Skirt-chasing Kurt ("SNL" standout Jason Sudeikis) can't believe that his new boss (a nearly unrecognizable Colin Farrell under a superbly greasy comb-over) demands that he fire all fat workers while he runs the company into the ground and parties like Charlie Sheen at a gentleman's club.
Ultra-wimpy dental assistant Dale (Charlie Day) can't believe his nymphomaniac boss (a brunette Jennifer Aniston) constantly pressures him for sex while wearing only panties under her open lab coat during oral surgeries.
One night at a bar, the three best pals trade stories of their "Horrible Bosses." Even though Kurt can't see how Dale's situation qualifies as a problem, the three eventually agree, after several rounds at the bar, that the world would better off if someone killed their supervisors.
The rest of "Horrible Bosses" falls into sheer hit-and-miss farce, although the loopy screenplay (by Michael Markowitz, Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley) is fascinating in its depiction of how seemingly ordinary people wind up in outrageous situations destined to become punch lines for Jay Leno.
Nick, Kurt and Dale apparently possess less than a third of a normal brain each, so their combined wisdom propels them to look for a hitman at a dive in a rough neighborhood.
They meet M.F. Jones (Jamie Foxx), a mean, tattooed dude with a first name that can't be printed in a family newspaper. He accepts the job for $5,000. But he won't kill anyone. He'll act as their hit-adviser.
His advice comes right out of Alfred Hitchcock's acknowledged "Strangers on a Train." Each should kill the other's boss. That way, nobody has a clear motive.
Gordon, the director of "Horrible Bosses," last gave us the bland, 2008 domestic comedy hit "Four Christmases."
Here, Gordon doesn't push the R-rated envelope the way Todd Phillips did in his two blistering "Hangover" comedies. If anything, Gordon restrains full use of the R-rated materials at his disposal, and is either unable or unwilling to venture into darker, tougher turf suggested by an abrupt and shocking murder.
No surprise. The titular bad guys get the best roles in "Horrible Bosses."
Farrell oozes with sleaze as the uncaring son of Kurt's late boss. Spacey stuffs treachery behind every syllable and sly snarl.
Still, Aniston wins the Bad Prize for her villainous vixen, a joyfully nasty, fiercely sexual dentist in a movie that dislikes women even more than it dislikes men.