Horrible Bosses is currently in production by New Line Studios. It's starring Jason Bateman and Jennifer Anniston. It's gone through major revisions and has garnered the credits of two new writers. We'll see how this one turns out.
Title: Horrible Bosses
Writer: Michael Markowitz
Draft Date: 7/5/2005 Pages: 111 Genre: Comedy
Time Period: Present Location: City
Logline: Three friends, working menial day jobs, plot to kill their bosses who continually find ways to ruin their lives.
Act I: We are presented with three very likeable, very normal characters in NICK, DALE, and KURT. Nick and Kurt work boring office jobs and Dale works at the local Best Buy. All of them have “horrible” bosses, although the bosses are presented more as annoying than horrible. Kurt complains of his boss, PELLIT’s, repetitive speaking, which comes off the page as annoying and easily skipped. Nick complains of his boss, HARKEN’s, creepiness and strictness, he comes across as a threatening and competitive person but that does not, by any means, make him horrible. Dale’s boss, JULIA, is apparently a beautiful Best Buy manager who sexually confronts him in her office. Dale is not in a relationship but is pathetically in love with the Starbucks girl, NINA, as displayed by his inability to create a conversation with her. Ultimately, Dale has no reason to not take the bait from his hot boss—which is something that seems impossible at a Best Buy.
The only character development we receive is of the aforementioned crush belonging to Dale and that Kurt, on the other hand, actually knows how to talk and sleep with women. Nick is attracted to the cute girl down the hall from his apartment, LISA, who immediately comes off as a difficult person during the firs interaction we see from them.
The instigating event comes when Kurt proposes the idea of actually killing the bosses as they, for no concrete reason, let them ruin their lives. Dale lets this gestate until Julia walks in on Dale and Nina talking at the Starbucks and claims Dale for her. Nick is vehemently against it until he attempts to hook up with Lisa only to end up talking about Harken and ruins the moment. Once again, Dale is the only one who has an actual crazy boss—but not a horrible one. We don’t even see how Pellit affects Kurt’s life outside of the office besides giving him something to complain about.
The first act is thirty pages of comedic situations through too many flashbacks of how the bosses are, supposedly, ruining the characters’ lives. Their reasons for plotting to kill are weak and unrealistic. They come across more as bored than vengeful.
Act II: To start off, the three watch C.S.I. attempting to figure out how to not get caught killing people which only leads to dismay. They come up with the idea of hiring a hit man, Kurt thinks he knows where to find one. Kurt brings them to a dive bar where they meet COCKSUCKER JONES. Cocksucker is the baddest guy in town. After humiliating themselves and Cockscuker in their business meeting they finally leave agreeing that he charges way too much at $10,000 a head. Nick comes up with the idea of killing each other’s bosses, which gives themselves an alibi. Dale reminds us of how they borrowed this plot from the Hitchcock classic Strangers on a Train.
The first person they stake out is Pellit. They learn that Pellit likes comic books and contemporary European furniture. Kurt gains a new light on his boss. They move to Harken’s, where Nick learns of Harken’s worldliness. He too gains a new perspective on his boss. But, Harken shows up while Kurt and Nick are in his house. In a moment of panic Nick, who stole Pellit’s Blackberry, drops it in Harken’s room. The rest of the “stalking” is done in a montage where it becomes more and more clear that Kurt is attracted to Dale’s boss, Julia.
Nick dropping the Blackberry, though, functions as the turning point in the second act and where the script finally starts to get interesting and not just comedic.
Harken, already suspecting his younger and attractive wife of cheating on him, discovers Pellit’s Blackberry then goes forth and shoots him. In trying to flee the scene Kurt gets caught looking at Pellit’s body and the three are brought in and questioned by bad cop-bad cop SAMSON and HAGAN.
All the action is wasted in the first and last ten pages of the act. We don’t see Julia at all in this act. This act it is just sitting in cars and watching, with the only source of entertainment coming from dialogue. This script needs more action. Also, Harken, who in the first act is depicted as being a little off his rocker, does not seem like someone who would just kill somebody. He’s presented more of a character that would take his time and figure out the situation without jumping to conclusions. This act shows that Markowitz’s doesn’t fully understand all of his characters. Its lack of action is also a display of the dreaded second act drag.
Act III: Things finally get juicy. Trying to prove their innocence, the three go to Harken’s seeking a taped confession. They end up stumbling into a surprise party planned by his wife. Using work as a cover-up, the three stay. Kurt is wearing the wire under his shirt. Nick spots Harken going up to his room during the party, alone. He follows him upstairs thinking Kurt is behind him the whole time. Kurt has actually gone to seduce Harken’s younger and beautiful wife aptly named, Mrs. Harken. Nick gets the confession and ticks off Harken even more. Kurt gets laid and misses the entire confession. This plot point functions as a great source of conflict but makes no sense: If Harken is Nick’s boss, why was Kurt wearing the wire? Why wouldn’t Nick wear the wire? So far the three have proved themselves loveably stupid but not to this level.
Panicked and upset, the three leave the party. Kurt confesses to another sexual mishap where he ended up being seduced by Dale’s nymphomaniac boss. While they’re hooking up, Julia puts herself in a masochistic contraption that ends up choking her to death. The vast majority of conflict and comedy in this script come from flashbacks—much like this important revelation that should have been done in present time. This script falls to another common mistake of overusing flashbacks.
As they’re fleeing the scene they start to notice Harken following them. They try to pick up the speed to Dale’s house only to see Samson and Hagan entering the house with a warrant. They speed through the neighborhood. The high-speed chase ends when Nick’s On-Star representative chimes in about his blown taillight. Dale spills the beans to PAUL, the representative, and tells him the police after them as well. This causes Paul to stop the engine due to company policy. A Deus ex Machina for Harken. As the three try to flee their dysfunctional car, Harken ends up shooting them all but not killing them. The three stumble into the Dive Bar where Cocksucker Jones resides. Harken shoots at them and nearly hits Cocksucker. The bar lights up Harken and the three escape without repercussion. The act ends with the allusion of a sequel as Dale finally gets a date with Nina, the Starbucks lady, and the three sit their nursing their wounds ala Pineapple Express.
All in all, this script has very few things going for it but they are important things: it’s never boring, it’s funny, and it has a great idea. The structure may be poorly executed and the character development is definitely lacking, but these things can be fixed. My suggestions would be:
A. Make the bosses more “horrible” and less “annoying”. Right now their murders aren’t justified—just so happens they were all killed by accident—because they aren’t actually ruining the protagonists lives, they’re just letting them be ruined. B. Tell the story in a more linear structure. Flashbacks work for comedies but only sparingly. Very rarely should a story be told with as many flashbacks as Horrible Bosses has. C. More from the characters. What do they have to lose? It’s not like they have the greatest careers in the world. Even then they seem pretty content with their menial jobs. What happens if they don’t kill their bosses? Right now it looks like nothing. Put more at stake for each individual character and give them all legitimate reasons for trying to accomplish what they want to accomplish. These “horrible” bosses should be standing in the way of them and something that’s going to give them pure happiness. a. Nick should have somebody important to him needing him to get the job that Harken got. Thus giving him a reason to get rid of him. Whether it is for money or status—there needs to be mass pressure between him and a character close to him for that promotion. b. Dale should be dating Nina but Nina should also work in Best Buy. When Julia finds out about his and Nina’s relationship she goes crazy and sets up Dale, framing him to look like he’s cheating on Nina with her. Dale should be on the cusp of proposing to Nina, or on the cusp of marrying her. This framing should cause Nina to break up with him. This should cause Dale to seek revenge and to prove Julia wrong. c. Kurt should not be working an office job as Nick already is. Kurt should be a teacher who works under the worst principal ever. It should be his goal to not only stage his killing as an accident but to expose the teacher’s flaws—whether it be pedophilia or budget cuts, he should be subversively ruining the school which Kurt cares so passionately about. His role as the ladies man is completely fine.
Horrible Bosses has the potential to be a great action/comedy but right now its lack of development and structured story line are severely prohibiting this.