American Pie has a lot to answer for. Back when American Pie was released, it was a film like no other. Porky’s had been around in the 70’s but American Pie was really the first of that “teen gross-out movie” that spurned Road Trip, Euro Trip and a host of other imitators. It appealed to the 16 – 25 (roughly) demographic and was ridiculously successful. It was genuinely funny, poignant in places and had moments that people could talk about at school/college/work the next day.
Then we grew up. American Pie 2 was brilliant but American Pie 3 tried to keep the same sort of humour but place the characters in an adult setting. It didn’t work because the film tried too hard to be too grown-up in places and then too adolescent in other areas. What it didn’t do was pitch at the perfect level, in the middle, immature while at the same time reflecting what all the people who had loved American Pie were going through. Then came Judd Apatow and 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up. These films were pitched perfectly and hit the generation of people that grew up loving American Pie but wanted the humour and situation to move on with them. The Hangover was the ultimate success and these “buddy-comedies” were churned out in the same way the “gross-out” films were after American Pie was a success.
Which brings us nicely (but in a very roundabout way) to Horrible Bosses. This film wants to imitate the magic of The Hangover. It has a “buddy-dynamic” at the middle of the film which the action centers around and the typical, spiralling, out of control situation that are the backbone of any of these types of films.
It does have something new though, the idea of well-known, established actors, playing against type. To have Kevin Spacey become nasty beyond belief, Colin Farrell say some of the funniest and inappropriate things that he has ever uttered on screen and Jennifer Aniston play massively against her “type” is a genius move that puts this film just above others that are trying the same thing. The problem is, it gets old quickly.
The first half an hour where we are introduced to these characters is brilliant. Hearing the sexual content coming from Jennifer Aniston can’t help but shock and delight. Kevin Spacey is clearly revelling in his role as the villainous boss and Colin Farrell clearly gets the best lines. Once the three bosses have been established though, there is no where else for these characters to go. You’ve used up your greatest resource within the first half of the movie.
It then falls to the three “buddy” characters in the center of the film to carry it along. Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day are actually really good. Their chemistry together is great and they work brilliantly as a three or individually in each situation they are put in. I already mentioned how under-rated I think Bateman is in my review for The Switch but Day and Sudeikis play to their parts well too. They fit the perfect “buddy” roles that made the Hangover such a success.
The failing for the film is the story. Once you’ve set up the “horrible bosses” and began the mock plot from Strangers on a Train, the writers didn’t seem to have anywhere to go with it. The last forty minutes or so seem to be a dash to a suitable ending for the film. The first half of the movie was paced brilliantly, had some great situations and played to the strengths of every actor and their characters. The second half of the film felt tagged on, as if the writers got to a great halfway point but had no way to finish.
This sums the film up really. It is a great idea that works for a limited amount of time but there is only so far you can go with three great actors playing against their usual character type. Although the three leads are very good and keep the film together, without anywhere for the story to go, the movie just seems to limp to a conclusion.
Overall, the acting is brilliant and the idea is done very well for at least the first forty minutes to an hour. As one of the films jumping on the Hangover and “Apatow” bandwagon, it is one of the better ones and very entertaining. It might also be worth thinking about the direction the new American Pie film will take now that the target audience has grown up. Maybe that will become a “Hangover” imitator too.
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)