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Film Reviews: 'Horrible Bosses,' 'Larry Crowne' and 'Transformers'

* * * Horrible Bosses

Directed by Seth Gordon. Written by Michael Markowitz and John Francis Daley & Jonathan Goldstein. With Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, Charlie Day and Kevin Spacey. (R)

You'd think with the job market this tight there would be more workplace revenge comedies out there, but the only thing Horrible Bosses has in common with Office Space is Jennifer Aniston. Its disgruntled employees, who fall into the Hangover categories of the uptight, sensible Prius-driver (Jason Bateman), the vulgar skirt-chaser (Jason Sudeikis) and the strange little man (Charlie Day), spend almost no time at work, and most of it plotting to kill each other's bosses, as in Strangers on a Train. (It's a running joke that everyone, even a head-tattooed ex-con played by Jamie Foxx, knows his movies.) Or, as Day's sexually harassed dental hygienist says, it's like Throw Momma From the Train, which brings to mind Danny DeVito and Day's far nastier series "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," in which half-baked ideas reliably spiral out of control on a weekly basis.

Bateman is the white-collar drone whose sadistic boss (Kevin Spacey) is dangling a promotion he will never get, Sudeikis the blue-collar guy whose new boss (Colin Farrell) is a coke-snorting, hooker-loving, would-be ninja who wants to dump chemical waste in Bolivia, and Day the pink-collar worker with the predatory boss (Jennifer Aniston) and, well, the other guys don't really take that one seriously. Aniston plays against type and Farrell, with a combover and a potbelly, against his looks, but Spacey (who's been here before) gets most of the horrible boss time, spouting such corporate koans as "You can't win a marathon without putting some Band-Aids on your nipples."

In the R-rated mode of the moment, Horrible Bosses has been written with a 12-year-old boy's idea of filthiness and a studio executive's fear of alienating the audience. It offers a surprising second-act twist and then wraps it all up a little too easily. But the movie belongs to Day, his voice still caught in a pubertal strangle that rises to canine-audible heights in moments of hysteria or cocaine-induced euphoria.

* * Larry Crowne

Directed by Tom Hanks. Written by Tom Hanks and Nia Vardalos. With Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts.(PG-13)

This week's bad teacher is Mercy Tainot, a bitter community college speech professor who shows up for her 8 a.m. class on "The Art of Informal Remarks" hungover and tries to cancel when there isn't a quorum. As played by Julia Roberts with her wide mouth grimly sealed in resignation, she's the best thing about Larry Crowne, Tom Hanks and Nia Vardalos' stillborn movie about a downsized big-box clerk who goes back to school, takes a job as a line cook and trades in his SUV for a scooter. He's soon befriended by a free spirit (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) who gives him a makeover and introduces him to her scooter-riding friends. Larry, who went into the Navy instead of college, signs up for speech, economics and composition, a class that is never mentioned again. George Takei is in high self-parody as the economics professor, and while Mrs. Tainot's class may not help Larry land a job, it gives us an opportunity to hear some amusing speeches.

Mrs. Tainot, who has been having stilted, artificial fights over internet porn with her husband (Bryan Cranston), suddenly melts into Larry's arms after hitching a ride on the back of his scooter one drunken night. The morning after she blames "a confluence of too many things happening in too short a timespan" which could be said of this movie. Hanks and Vardalos are clearly attempting a return to the adult comedies of the '70s, in which no one had kids (not even the neighbors played by Cedric the Entertainer and Taraji P. Henson, who are engaged in a permanent yard sale that must violate some zoning regulation) and George Segal was finding himself with maybe Glenda Jackson. But all the fuss is over a kiss — in the '70s, Glenda would have slept with George.

Roberts and Hanks' underwritten relationship, which results in intersecting and improbably jealous triangles, is pinned solely on the fact that their names are above the title, although, as in Bad Teacher, Mrs. Tainot's students seem unaware that their instructor looks like a movie star. Hanks did indeed attend junior college in the '70s with older students and a Vietnam vet; the rest is cutesy, unfocussed and forced. But at least there's Takei's diabolical laugh.

* 1/2 Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Directed by Michael Bay. Written by Ehren Kruger. With Shia LaBeouf, Frances McDormand and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. (PG-13)

If Larry Crowne derives its sparse pleasures from George Takei intoning "Econ Prime," Transformers: Dark of the Moon offers the voice of Leonard Nimoy as the billygoat-whiskered Autobot Sentinel Prime and a two-and-a-half hour homage to the "Star Trek" episode in which Spock went nuts. (For those who missed it it's excerpted at the beginning of the movie, with commentary from those jive-talking Autobot gremlins.) Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) is now a college graduate living in Washington, D.C., with a new girlfriend (Victoria's Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, who is introduced ass-first and you can practically hear Michael Bay smirking, "See, Megan Fox, I can replace you with a paper bag with lipstick"). But even a medal from President Obama won't get Sam a job until John Malkovich sends him to the mailroom, and then Frances McDormand struts in as the head of National Intelligence and John Turturro returns as that wacky former agent, and where are the Coen brothers when you need them?

After an hour or so of mounting nonsense in which a dazed Buzz Aldrin meets chief Autobot Optimus Prime and Ken Jeong drops his pants again, Optimus reactivates Sentinel, who promptly goes berserk and destroys Chicago. Watching giant robots slugging it out on East Wacker Drive is less fun than it sounds and goes on forever, with Josh Duhamel and his soldiers and Tyrese Gibson and his ex-commandos and Shia screaming like a little girl.

Unlike many recent 3-D movies, Dark of the Moon was actually shot in 3-D, and if the headaches this one induces don't sound the death knell to this silliness I don't know what will. Since rapid movement remains jittery, Bay sometimes resorts to slow-motion, and the 3-D actually makes the CGI less convincing, with the actors on one plane and the robots on another. To exploit the 3-D, Bay has filled the sets with reflective surfaces; what the last Transformers did to your eardrums, this one does to your eyeballs, and it is not pleasant.

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