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Horrible Bosses: Why Movie Trailers Ruin Comedic Impact

In an ideal cinematic world, there would be no movie trailers. We would see the film title, a one-line hook to get us there, and the creative team involved. I would see Horrible Bosses, “three men plot to kill their bosses in this dark comedy,” and see the main six actors along with accomplished TV comedy director Seth Gordon. I’d be there in a heartbeat, and I would have found the film full of surprising, unexpected, and laugh-out-loud humor. However, in the current world we’re in, much that you might have found surprising is found in the trailers and commercials, so the reaction is less laugh-out-loud and more one of silent amusement. It’s timely and the main three have great chemistry– it’s the existence of the trailer, not the bosses, that is truly horrible for this film.

We follow three guys whose lives would be great if their bosses were no longer around. Nick (Jason Bateman) takes loads of crap from his psychotic boss Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey) since he believes he’s in line for a promotion. Dale (Charlie Day) is a dental assistant with a sweet fiancee, but his boss (Jennifer Aniston) persistently sexually harasses him. Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) loves his boss (Donald Sutherland), but his cokehead son (Colin Farrell) doesn’t care about the job, is a royal pain, and unfortunately for Kurt is next in line to run the company. When all three are pushed to the breaking point, they consult with a hardened thug (Jamie Foxx) to figure out how three average joe nice guys can go about actually committing such an immoral act. Complications arise, murderous feelings wax and wane, and it turns out how matter how bad the boss… murder is harder than it seems.

The movie is at its best when the main characters, especially Sudeikis and Day, are going off on tangential discussions. These scenes feel like riffs that the director allowed to continue, so whether they were written or not, they add to the fun and help us get to like the characters. The danger of the film is that the villains are so cartoony that we don’t sympathize with the characters because of their plight– we have to get to know them, which the side riffs do. Bateman predominantly exists to appear put-upon and scold his two friends for being idiots, so he gets to have less fun. Sudeikis and Day both are in top form, as is Jamie Foxx, putting forth the most successful comedic performance in a film I’ve ever seen him do. Watch the way he embodies his character and plays every moment on screen, especially the way he sips through a straw. The bosses are less successful, because they’re essentially one-note, but Aniston is surprisingly believable as the horrifying slut and Spacey has some fun chewing into a few of his douchier lines.

Really, I had fun watching it, and it gets more fun as it goes. The primary dilemma is that every “big gag” has been spoiled in the trailer. Aniston’s means of harassment? Nearly all spoiled. Spacey’s more dastardly moments? Nearly all spoiled. Farrell really only has a couple of jokes, all of which are spoiled. Some of the difficulties they encounter (Spacey has an allergic reaction, Aniston seduces Sudeikis, the boys get arrested when Bateman speeds) were all included in the trailer– these are all gags which would have had a terrific impact if they came out of the blue. There’s already a degree of predictability to some extent, since we know these guys aren’t killers and we sense early on that they won’t ever truly commit murder, so to have so many great gags ruined by trailers just underscores an epidemic that’s been sweeping the cinemas. The best special effects, the best action, and the best jokes are all being spoiled in the trailers. Now, movies are being made solely to look great and seem fun in trailers (Sucker Punch and Battle: Los Angeles come to mind). My favorite trailers of the last couple of years– The Social Network and A Serious Man– contained zero visual spoilers and very little dialogue from the film itself. Can we please get rid of them? Until we can, movies like Horrible Bosses will never reach their full potential, since the element of surprise is removed almost entirely. Talk about horrible.

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~ by russellhainline on July 9, 2011.

One Response to “Horrible Bosses: Why Movie Trailers Ruin Comedic Impact”

  1. It has been like that for ages… how many movies I hated because eveything was in the trailer. In an ideal cinematic world, good trailer should only be good trailer and not good cuts of a bad movie!

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