Three old friends who work for deranged, abusive bosses decide that the only solution is a “Strangers on a Train”-style murder swap in a lightweight comedy sustained by recession-era resentment fantasies, some attention to plot structure, and a bunch of top comic performers enjoying themselves so much it is impossible not to join them. As confirmed by the outtakes over the closing credits, even the stars were shocked into laughter by some of the more outrageous moments in the film. This is what “Bad Teacher” wanted to be, cheerfully offensive with some forward propulsion. It’s a wish fulfillment story with the vicarious pleasure of revenge and of seeing other people get into a lot of trouble for taking the risks we are much too careful to attempt.
You can see that Jennifer Aniston, looking like an inhumanly idealized CGI version of herself, is so happy to be out of those cloying rom-coms that she has a total blast as a predatory and sexually voracious dentist who only gets more excited by humiliating her assistant (Charlie Day as Dale). Even her dentist music plays “Crazy.” Colin Farrell, unrecognizable as a paunchy cokehead with a hangover, clearly enjoys playing a nunchucking nutball whose primary influence on home decoration appears to Uday Hussein. And Kevin Spacey, who pretty much owns the bad boss role brings it once again as a paranoid, manipulative bully.
No wonder Kurt (Jason Sudeikis), Nick (Jason Bateman), and Dale feel trapped. None of them can find another job. Horrible bosses don’t hesitate to threaten bad references and the job market is awful. A high school classmate who was once a successful financier at Lehman Brothers is now reduced to, well, let’s just say he has his hand out. So, being the dim-witted play by the rules guys that they are, with their only knowledge of crime coming from Dale’s intensive study of the “Law & Order” franchise, they try to find an assassin to knock off the horrible bosses, reasoning that “We don’t clean our apartments or cut our hair,” so why should they do their own killing? They look for help first on the internet (and wonder whether they should have a cheese plate to offer the hired killer) and then try some random guy because he is black and has a scary nickname and lot of tattoos and therefore must be a badass (Jamie Foxx, very funny as [Explicative deleted] Jones).
Unlike “Bad Teacher,” this film recognizes that the outrageous and shocking behavior works only if there is a solidly structured plot to keep things moving. It is as funny to see how some of the elements from the first half come back in the second as it is to see Aniston’s sexual predator, spraying Day’s crotch with the hose from the spit sink and singing out, “Shabbat Shalom!” at what is revealed. Bateman’s impeccably dry delivery is perfectly balanced with Sukeikis’ guy-next door (if the guy next door was constantly looking for short-term female companionship) cheer, and a nice restorative after the awful “Hall Pass.” Julie Bowen (“Modern Family”), Lindsay Sloane, and Ioan Gruffudd make the most of brief appearances and good spirits about bad activities keeps things brisk and lively. It is most likely to be remembered in the future as a relic of (we hope) a low point in the American economy than anyone’s notion of a classic, but fans of raunchy comedy will find something to enjoy.
Parents should know that this film has constant offensive material played for humor including very crude references and insults, extremely explicit sexual references and graphic images, constant strong and offensive language, homophobic humor, racial humor, gross prank, drug use and drug humor, comic and serious peril and violence. Much of the humor comes from discussions and varying levels of success in a plan to murder three people.
Family Discussion: Who was the worst boss you ever had and why? What makes people bad bosses?
If you like this, try: “Throw Momma From the Train,” “9 to 5,” and “Office Space”