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Revenge Served With Laughs in Horrible Bosses

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"Horrible Bosses" is as much a grown-up fantasy movie as it is a comedy. In it, three downtrodden workingmen plot to put their awful authority figures in their place: six feet under. It's a lip-smacking concept in this recession, as many of those still fortunate enough to have a job might be trapped with sharky superiors of their own.

Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day are the labor-trampled trio, playing off one another like a coarser Three Stooges. Bateman's Nick is a doormat wiped constantly by the dictatorial Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey, devilishly fun). Sudeikis' Kurt is a frisky but appealing fellow in good standing with his boss (Donald Sutherland), until the old gent dies suddenly, and his chemical company comes under the slovenly rule of his cokehead son, Bobby. (Yes, that's Irish looker Colin Farrell hiding behind that comb-over and five-head.) Day's Dale is the Curly of the bunch, kind of a knucklehead, but you feel for him as he's continually sexually assaulted by Jennifer Aniston's dentist-wench character.

The friends sarcastically mull offing their bosses, after an unfortunate reunion with another pal (P.J. Byrne) who got laid off from Lehman Brothers and is now living with his parents and committing distasteful acts to pay the bills. But as each man endures further abuse from his higher-up, he decides that only in death will the tyranny stop.

They meet a thug with a name unprintable for general audiences at a bar for "murder consultation." (Jamie Foxx is so at ease with this lowlife character that he practically melts into the plastic booth.) For $5,000, he coaches the unlikely assassins into doing the deed on one another's bosses, so as to lessen police suspicion.

But like the Stooges, the cut-and-dry plan goes wickedly awry, including Dale and Nick having a cocaine mishap with a DustBuster.

Kurt as Moe backhands his buddies, and "Why, I oughta!" insults fly. It's a crass new species of slapstick for our times.

The screenwriters learned from the best. In particular, John Francis Daley (who also has a cameo here as another of Harken's underlings) was under the directing tutelage of Judd Apatow during his "Freaks and Geeks" years. There are dialogue morsels that'll likely become catch phrases — but again, most of which would be unsuitable to republish here. At the very least, it might result in a sales boost for the pop band the Ting Tings. (Day does a supercharged rendition of "That's Not My Name" while on a stakeout. You'll laugh till it hurts.)

The cast is a pretty enjoyable lot. Day has a ball with his fidgety Dale. One hopes this will be a stepping stone for the cult-status actor ("It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia") into a larger realm of onscreen opportunities.

The big buzz about "Bosses" is Aniston digging into a not-so "Friend"ly role, but frankly, she's a sour note in an otherwise fantastic farce. Her doc's vulgarity is supposed to be giggled at, a turning of the tables on the perverted bossman archetype, but there isn't anything funny about a rapist, male or female.

Despite that, "Horrible Bosses" slays. It's a surprisingly deft comedy with some unexpected curves — all of which lead to hilarity.

"Horrible Bosses" Rated: R. Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes. 3 stars.

To find out more about Melissa Bobbitt and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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