HORRIBLE BOSSES 2
Director: Sean Anders
Cast: Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, Charlie Day, Chris Pine, Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Aniston, Christoph Waltz, Kevin Spacey, Jonathan Banks, Lindsay Sloane, Keegan-Michael Key, Kelly Stables
MPAA Rating: (for strong crude sexual content and language throughout)
Running Time: 1:48
Release Date: 11/26/14
Review by Mark Dujsik | November 25, 2014
One of the primary challenges that come with a sequel is the juggling of the old with the new. Take the familiar elements that worked in the first movie, continue them, and expand upon them, and introduce new characters and situations that are still in sync with the established elements. The risk is in trying to find a balance. Play up the old over the new, and the whole affair could be a superfluous retread. Play up the new over the old, and the resulting sequel might lose the essence of whatever worked in the preceding movie. Let's just say that, for better and for worse, Horrible Bosses 2 doesn't have the latter problem.
It's for the better because this sequel is, at times, almost as funny as its predecessor. It pretty much replicates the central conceit and tone of the first film, which played on the fantasy of doing in one's despicable boss but focused more on a triple-murder plot gone awry due to the plotters' incompetence. It allowed us to laugh at the prospect of three premeditated murders because the targets were so irredeemably bad and the perpetrators had an almost zero-percent chance of pulling off something so complicated.
This time the crime is kidnapping, which is less severe than triple homicide on a moral level. From a legal standpoint, the stakes are about the same. If the Nick (Jason Bateman), Kurt (Jason Sudeikis), and Dale (Charlie Day) get caught, they're going to be spending a significant chunk of their lives in prison. At this point, the anti-heroes getting caught is probably the only place for these movies to go if they continue.
That's where we arrive at the "for the worse" part. The crime, the targets, and possible prison sentence are different, but on a fundamental level, we're still watching a trio of incompetent dolts as they fail at committing a crime but succeed at avoiding arrest due to pure, blind, and dumb luck. The reliance on a familiar scenario is understandable and even perfectly acceptable. If it worked once, it can work again, but the screenplay by director Sean Anders and John Morris relies on much more than the recognizable setup. The movie is grasping to its predecessor's bag of tricks and repeatedly pulling out the contents.
The reasoning is simple: Nothing that is new here feels new, and what is new here is so underwhelming that the movie's sense of nostalgia feels like an involuntary reflex. The bad guys this time around don't make much of impression, so where else are the screenwriters to turn if not back to the villains whose assault on basic human decency made them seem like perfect targets for the guys' desire for vengeance?
This isn't necessarily a bad thing. One might recall that the supporting characters—especially the trio of horrible bosses—were the highlights of the previous film.
It's a twisted delight to see Kevin Spacey return to proffer a colorful assemblage of four-letter words in order to give his theory of why the guys seem to fail at everything they try (They're missing a part of the male anatomy, and his parting advice includes a helpful sketch). It's amusing to see Jamie Foxx show up a few times as the guys' go-to advisor on all things criminal—a man with terrible negotiating skills and a 12-letter nickname is another of the Spacey character's favorite words. It's less fun to see Jennifer Aniston's one-joke character reappear to offer further iterations on the joke that she knows a lot about the kind of sex acts that are probably still illegal in a few states.
The plot has the guys starting their own company (Its name, the worst possible combination of their names, shows the importance of enunciation) to manufacture a multi-purpose shower tool (The opening scene has the device fail on a television show, which results in a pantomime of acts that Aniston's character would only consider foreplay). Bert Hanson (Christoph Waltz) offers them an exclusive contract to sell the thing but drops out at the last minute, leaving the company in massive debt. The guys decide to kidnap Hanson's son Rex (Chris Pine) to pay off the debt, but Rex decides that he wants to participate in the scam to get some of the ransom money.
These new villains are lacking in the perverse qualities that made the ones in the last film so enticingly awful. Waltz, in particular, is wasted as a cutthroat businessman whose worst crime is being a cutthroat businessman. His character exists simply to establish the plot and move it forward (Why cast an actor who's capable of such warped characters and relegate him to delivering exposition?). Pine is admirably over-the-top as the kind of man who would advocate his own kidnapping, but something feels manufactured about it.
This leaves Bateman, Sudeikis, and Day's characters to constantly yammer on and on about how incompetent they are as a way of showing how incompetent they are. The actors are funny enough to make it work for the most part, but even that becomes overly familiar once the plan is in motion (It is amusing to see the scheme's execution get further from its imagined perfection). Horrible Bosses 2 is far from a terrible sequel, but it is a fundamentally redundant one.
Copyright © 2014 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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