‘Horrible Bosses 2’ Review: Now With More Horrible!
The first Horrible Bosses got a free pass as far as I was concerned. The concept – exacting revenge upon your despicable superiors at the workplace – was something we could all appreciate in one form or another, and one that we frequently have appreciated in the form of 9 to 5 and Swimming with Sharks.
That being said, I didn’t find Horrible Bosses particularly funny, but it also didn’t make me want to rip the stuffing out of the movie theater arm rests and gouge my eyes out with the pointy parts that lie within. So in that respect it was admittedly light years ahead of most comedies nowadays, particularly comedies like Horrible Bosses 2, which haplessly retreads the plot of the original film and tries to get away with it by stuffing dialogue in the poor actors’ mouths about how they can’t believe they’re being forced to do the same crap twice (a.k.a. “Die Harder Syndrome”).
Nick (Jason Bateman), Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) and Dale (Charlie Day) have struck out on their own with a Skymall-friendly device they call “The Shower Buddy,” which shoots out soap, shampoo and conditioner as well as water. (Actually, it’s not an entirely terrible idea.) A major corporation run by Bert Hanson (Christoph Waltz) and his diva son Rex (Chris Pine) offers to buy the rights to the product, but our heroes refuse, opting instead to take them up on an exclusive order of The Shower Buddy, after which finally become their own bosses.
It’s all a scam, however, and now Nick, Kurt and Dale have just a few days to come up with a ton of money or lose out on their American dream. Feeling screwed over, and overly eager to revisit the winning formula of the first film, they decide to kidnap Rex and hold him for ransom, leading to a series of “comic” criminal mishaps and unnecessary cameos from their former bosses Dave (Kevin Spacey) and Julia (Jennifer Aniston), the latter of whom still desperately wants Dale to fuck her for some baffling reason.
With respected comedians like Bateman, Sudeikis and Day on board, working off a character dynamic that was so successful in the first film, you might imagine that some of their scenes would be funny. For the most part, you would be wrong. Although they stumble upon a few belly laughs throughout the course of Horrible Bosses 2, the majority of their screen time is spent overselling every gag, most of which aren’t particularly amusing to begin with. Example: if you think it’s hilarious that grown men are using childrens’ walkie-talkies, Horribles Bosses 2 will soon prove otherwise.
Perhaps they are trying too hard this time because the material hasn’t given them anything to work with. Whereas the first Horrible Bosses relied on universally relatable situations (like hating your boss) and comedic irony (like refusing to have sex with Jennifer Aniston), Horrible Bosses 2 ignores every conceit that could have made their plight worth empathizing with, and replaces unexpected comedy set-ups with rehashed old ones. Only Chris Pine emerges unscathed, surprisingly, with a character who is far too cool to be hanging out with these losers, but who manages to worm his way into their now-familiar comedic routine with generally funny results.
The dramatic and comic irony in Horrible Bosses 2 is that the heroes of the first film have gone into business for themselves, have wacky employees of their own, and through a series of bad decisions have inadvertently become the “horrible bosses” that they used to hate. And although the film makes a point of acknowledging this reversal, it steadfastly refuses to mine any new situation for new jokes. The script has to bend over backwards and break its own spine just to turn Nick, Kurt and Dale into underdog criminals again, and set them about on yet another incompetent spree.
But familiarity is the enemy of laughter, and this time the enemy has won: Horrible Bosses 2 is a textbook example of a lazy comedy sequel. It officially earns the right to call itself “horrible.”