by Ryan Hill

This summer movie season has been one of the most surprising in recent memory, at least comedy-wise. The Wolfpack failed to recapture magic in a bottle with “The Hangover Part II,” Kristen Wiig and Cameron Diaz showed women can be as raunchy as the boys in “Bridesmaids” and “Bad Teacher,” and now there’s “Horrible Bosses,” a surprisingly funny movie that, for the first time on the big screen, makes full use of the comedic talents of Jasons Bateman and Sudeikis.

The two, along with Charlie Day (“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”), star as three average guys whose work lives are terrible because their bosses are, well, horrible.

Kevin Spacey, rekindling his “Swimming with Sharks” magic, has the smarm and obnoxiousness turned up to 11 terrorizing Bateman. Jennifer Aniston, sporting brunette hair and the sex drive of a teenager, tries to blackmail Day into sleeping with her at the office. And Colin Farrell, rocking a fake comb over, indulges in drugs and women in his office while Sudeikis is left to do the dirty work.

In a move so similar to Danny DeVito’s “Throw Momma from the Train” that they mention that film by name, the friends hatch a plan to better their lives by killing their bosses. Enlisting the expertise of an ex-con, played in a hilarious cameo by Jamie Foxx, they set about figuring out how to pull off three perfect crimes.

Until that point in the film, “Horrible Bosses” really struggles to get off the ground. Director Seth Gordon, a documentary filmmaker whose only other narrative film was the disappointing “Four Christmases,” feels he has to make every character curse and swear at the end of each sentence in the first 15 minutes so he won’t lose the audience. The problem is it comes off as forced and hackneyed, and before the film can even get going it’s in danger of losing the audience because it isn’t funny, it’s just crude for the sake of being crude.

But luckily for the audience, Gordon finally gets out of the way and lets the script’s insanity play out with Bateman supplying the dry comedy, Sudeikis the everyman bit and Day tearing it up as the wild card of the group. They know how to play off of each other perfectly, and every scene the three share results in comedic gold – the three make a better comedy trio than the Wolfpack from “The Hangover.”

Comedies about death and murder are difficult to pull off. Just look at “Throw Momma From the Train.” But “Horrible Bosses” ignores the darkness of murder (for the most part) and focuses on the ineptitude of the main characters while also letting the co-stars cut loose.

The only negative to the fantastic cast is that there just wasn’t enough of Colin Farrell and his comb over. He throws himself headfirst into his greasy character, and the result is a career rejuvenation on the level that Tom Cruise had when he donned a similar outfit in Ben Stiller’s “Tropic Thunder.”

Make no mistake, “Horrible Bosses” is one of the funniest and most consistently funny comedies of not only the summer, but the year. But while the film puts “The Hangover Part II” to shame, it stumbles so badly out of the gate it doesn’t quite reach the level of the hilarious “Bridesmaids.” Regardless, those hoping for some payback for “The Hangover” disappointment need not look any further than “Horrible Bosses.”

Grade: 3/4