July 26, 2011

But Really, What Was I Expecting?

When the first line in a movie is a masturbation joke, I don't expect great cinema. But man, I at least expect it not to go downhill from there. Not so the [commence joke made by most reviewers] aptly named [end joke] Horrible Bosses, which manages to plumb grotesque new troughs of misogyny and homophobia in its remaining ninety minutes.

Please note: the problem here is not that I can't take a joke. I even kind of like the premise, ridiculous though it is. But people have funny boss stories — heck, I have funny boss stories — that can stand without the gratuitous caricatures and exaggerations that the HB writers rely on.

Yeah, Kevin Spacey playing a dick is pretty funny, and Colin Farrell playing a dick (there I go again) is also pretty funny. But this isn't an SNL skit and the "this person is a dick" gag has quickly diminishing returns; in a movie caricatures eventually need to find some depth.

In the good ones, anyway. In the bad ones the filmmakers panic and just start ratcheting up the exaggeration — until you have Jennifer Aniston fellating a hot dog and Jamie Foxx as a video pirate named "Motherfucker". (This isn't some highbrow/lowbrow snobbery, by the way: I enjoyed I Love You, Man, which was also based on a thin premise and hopelessly exaggerated caricatures. But — ah-ha! — those caricatures eventually started acting like real people.)

But back to the misogyny and homophobia. Here are some things I think, as a rule, just don't need to happen in any movie, ever:

• Two men having an argument over who would be "more rape-able" in prison, especially when...

• The only female characters in the movie are instantly sexually available to the male characters at any time — as long as the male characters tell them they're pretty first.

• Any male characters who don't want to have sex with the (irredeemably-slutty-because-they-DO-want-to-have-sex) women are openly and repeatedly called gays, faggots, or pussies.

• Etc. Did I mention Jennifer Aniston fellates a hot dog?

The sad thing is, a lot of the stars of the movie are legitimately talented actors or legitimately talented comedians (or both), and with so many of them working together it's hard not to, natch, legitimately enjoy a scene every now and then. There are some moments here that I found genuinely entertaining — and this was at the height of my feminist disgust. If only they could have replaced the rape jokes (and the product placement, sweet Jesus the product placement!) with some actual storytelling, I would have been all set.

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