When HORRIBLE BOSSES hit theaters three years ago, it came at a time when original (as in non-sequel) R-rated comedies were going strong, following the likes of BRIDESMAIDS and BAD TEACHER. Context doesn't make a comedy funny or not, but it was a good year for adults to laugh. I also seem to recall that the key to Horrible Bosses' humor was not in its silly plot, which was just an excuse to open the floodgates on some fairly funny material from leads Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis as Nick, Dale and Kurt, respectively. But the real enjoyment came from some truly foul behavior from Colin Farrell, Kevin Spacey and Jennifer Aniston as the titular bosses, as well as Jamie Foxx as a "murder consultant," brought into the picture when the boys decide to kill each other's bosses. The film was loaded with all sorts of wrong, and for the most part, it worked.
Jumping ahead three years, our heroes are now inventors, attempting to kickstart their own business with the help of a gadget outlet store chain, run by the father-and-son team of Bert and Rex Hanson (Christoph Waltz and Chris Pine). Not surprisingly, the seemingly reputable Hansons double-cross the fellas, leaving them and their new start-up company on the verge of ruin. Naturally, the only thing they can think of is become would-be criminals again to get their money back. They concoct a plan to kidnap young Rex and demand a ransom that just happens be the same amount as their bank loan. The film finds excuses (some more legit than others) to bring Foxx, Spacey and Aniston back into the mix, with varying results.
HORRIBLE BOSSES 2 was co-written and directed by the comedy creative team of Sean Anders (who also co-wrote and directed THAT’S MY BOY and SEX DRIVE, as well as co-wrote WE’RE THE MILLERS, HOT TUB TIME MACHINE, and the recent DUMB AND DUMBER TO) and John Morris. And for the most part, this film captures the spirit of the first one, almost a little too on the nose. But something in the mix isn't quite right.
First and foremost, Bateman, Day and Sudeikis seem even more idiotic than before and spend most of the film talking over each other, burying many jokes in overlapping dialogue. But more significantly, a great deal of their bite is missing. In the first film, they were angry, but here they simply sulk around like they got their feelings hurt. It's easy for a lot of people to identify with having a tyrannical or inappropriate boss, the type the first film showed us; but not as many audience members are going to be able to really identify with the specific financial woes of the team this time around. And even the way in which Waltz's character fools them seems far-fetched to the point where I didn't buy it and didn't care. They don't seem desperate and borderline insane from being treated so poorly in this chapter; they just seem greedy.
The two best performances belong to Pine and the returning Aniston, who seems to have found even more disgusting ways to gross me out and turn me on in part two. She just seems shot out of a vulgarian cannon, and while I rarely equate this level of gross-out with actual humor, there's something so matter-of-fact about her delivery and a determination in her approach that equals laughs. The fact that she sleeps with Bateman, and he immediately falls in love with her provides fuel for one of the film's few successful running jokes.
On the other hand, Pine succeeds simply because he sells a certain variety of spoiled brat mixed with a man whose father will always see him as something of a disappointment. He's effectively playing the role that the three guys played in the first film because he's been pushed over the brink, and is seeking to get back at his father through unconventional means. I won't ruin exactly what happens, but let's just say that his relationship with the three leads changes during the course of the movie.
Sadly, more often than not HORRIBLE BOSSES 2 misses the mark. Presumably Nick, Dale and Kurt are collectively smart enough to hold down real jobs at one point and then eventually invent this product that could make them a great deal of money, so why is it necessary that they act like such idiots? What came across as witty, amusing banter in the first film has crossed the line into incoherent, unfunny rambling. It's sadly a classic example fulfilling the bare minimum requirements of a sequel and not bothering to do an iota more to make it better or more clever or just plain wacky in an interesting way. It's a dud of the highest order, with not enough of what's good to make it necessary or entertaining beyond a few forced smiles.