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“Horrible Bosses,” reviewed

“Horrible Bosses,” reviewed (photo)

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I’m getting a little sick of reading (and saying and writing) the phrase “the plot is just a clothesline to hang the gags on” in reviews of Hollywood comedies. Yes, laughs are the most important thing in a comedy, but if laughs are the only thing in a comedy, the film might be funny, but that’s all it will ever be. Seth Gordon‘s “Horrible Bosses” represents a welcome return to plot-based comedy. This is not a movie in which the plot is just a clothesline to hang gags on. There’s an honest-to-God story here, and the more twists and turns it takes the better and funnier “Horrible Bosses” gets.

That story is simple but the execution could be tricky. Three working stiffs — corporate drone Nick (Jason Bateman), dental hygienist Dale (Charlie Day), and manager of a small chemical company Kurt (Jason Sudekis) — realize over one of their weekly commiseration sessions at the local bar, that their lives are perfect in every way except for one: their horrible bosses. Dave (Kevin Spacey) tricks Nick into getting drunk on the job, then steals his promotion. Julia (Jennifer Aniston) is so intent on sleeping with Dale that she threatens to tell his fiance they have unless he actually does. And Bobby (Colin Farrell) is a greedy cokehead who inherits the business from his father. He forces Kurt to do his dirty work for him (first order of business: “trim the fat,” i.e. “fire the fat people”) and threatens to run the company into the ground. The trio resolve to murder their bosses, only jokingly and drunkenly at first, but more seriously after things get even worse at work. Why don’t they just quit their jobs, you ask? In this economy? The way things are these days, you’ve got to hold onto your career like grim death, even if that means sending someone else off to theirs.

Murderous fantasies are one thing, but actually plotting (and then actually executing) a hit isn’t necessarily a comedy slam dunk. To make it funny, you’ve got to make the bosses pure, unadulterated evil, and the ones in “Horrible Bosses” definitely are. Farrell, sporting a awe-inspiring combover, is a being of pure sleaze and greed. Aniston, playing against type with a twinkle in her eye, is a funnily filthy seductress. And Kevin Spacey, who’s already in the Bad Movie Boss Hall of Fame for his role in the sadly forgotten “Swimming With Sharks” is a deliciously sinister sociopath as Dave. Nick, Dale, and Kurt make what little rationalizations they need to — since Bobby’s cost-cutting measures will mean the deaths of thousands of South Americans, murdering him would actually be a heroic gesture! — and set off on their plans.

After a lengthy and hilariously unsuccessful search for an assassin with an interest in, um, “wetwork,” they finally find a “murder consultant” played by Jamie Foxx. He suggests they each perform the other’s murders so that the have no apparent motive; you know, like that movie “Strangers on a Train” (or was it “Throw Momma From the Train”)? I will not spoil anything else about Foxx’s small but unforgettable role but everything about every moment he is in — from his plan to his character’s name to his hair to the ultimate reveal of how he got into the murder consulting game — is funny. One joke in particular involving Fox’s character — you’ll know it when you hear it because it involves the unexpected placement of a very unlikely movie title — made me laugh harder than any joke in any movie I’ve seen so far this year.

I laughed a lot in general at “Horrible Bosses,” but even more than the laughter, I appreciated the way the screenplay by Michael Markowitz, Jonathan M. Goldstein, and “Freaks and Geeks” star John Francis Daley continually ratchets up the tension as these very dumb guys get into deeper and deeper trouble. Here is one film whose outcome cannot be predicted from its opening scenes (not by a long shot). Rebounding from his dreadful first fiction feature “Four Christmases,” director Seth Gordon shows the same sort of deftness with suspenseful comic narratives that made his documentary on obsessive “Donkey Kong” players, “The King of Kong,” so hilariously entertaining. He juggles a big cast and a dicey comic premise, and he navigates the fine line between dark comedy and just plain dark with real skill.

“Horrible Bosses” has some good jokes, extremely likable performances and, yes, a real and vital plot. It’s a comedy with some suspense and even some stakes. What a welcome twist. Gordon and company really killed it.

Going to see “Horrible Bosses” this weekend? We want to hear what you think of it. Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter!

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.