A film review by Craig J. Koban December 5, 2014 


2014, R, 108 mins.


Jason Sudeikis as Kurt Buckman  /  Jason Bateman as Nick Hendricks  /  Charlie Day as Dale Arbus  /  Jennifer Aniston as Dr. Julia Harris  /  Kevin Spacey as Dave Harken  /  Jamie Foxx as Dean "MF" Jones  /  Chris Pine as Rex Hanson  /  Christoph Waltz as Bert Hanson

Directed by Sean Anders  /  Written by Anders and John Morris

About halfway through HORRIBLE BOSSES 2 I was left contemplating whether it was an unnecessary sequel or a horrible one.  

By the time the film ended I was leaning a bit towards the former.  

There are certainly some solid laughs sprinkled through this follow-up to 2011’s HORRIBLE BOSSES – a comedy that spiritedly tapped into everyone’s revenge fantasy of wanting to achieve the ultimate comeuppance on malevolent employers – but for every solid gag that fires on all cylinders there are countless others that fall resoundingly flat.  That, and HORRIBLE BOSSES 2 is kind of ill conceived and lacking in any semblance of originality when compared to its antecedent. 

Here’s another problem with this sequel and countless others that have been released lately: it mistakes an increase in debauchery with being funny.  Dirtier does not mean more amusing.  Now, Seth Gordon’s original HORRIBLE BOSSES was by no means a “clean” film, per se; it certainly contained scenes of wanton lewdness that pushed its R-rating, but that film used its vulgarity sparingly to punctuate scenes that were already built on a strong foundation of comic mischief.  Sean Anders’ (replacing Gordon) HORRIBLE BOSSES 2 comes off, more or less, as chronically unfunny for how desperate it seems to be more smutty, which often has many scenes coming off as more shamelessly tasteless and puerile.  It’s also a great waste of talent, especially Jason Bateman, who's one of the best pure deadpanners in the movie business that’s unfortunately left to wallow in a film populated by infantile levels of crassness.   

At least this sequel returns the likable pairing of Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, and Charlie Day to the mix and they once again play hapless idiots (a bit more idiotic, it seems, this go around) that are pushed around by unscrupulous employers until they have all had as much as they can take.  In the first film, the trio were respectively harassed by three toxically dislikeable cretins, played by Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston, and Colin Farrell (the former two return for the sequel in glorified cameos).  Now, the premise of workplace revenge is hardly anything new to comedy (9 TO 5 did it decades ago to sublime effect), but HORRIBLE BOSSES had fun sympathizing with its working class stiffs.  In the new film, however, I found myself wincing at their chronic stupidity in willing to rehash the same sort of cockamamie schemes that got them all into trouble the first time around. 



Anyhoo’, the events of the first film have left poor Nick (Bateman), Kurt (Sudeikis), and Dale (Day) feeling like they want to be their own bosses for once in the lives, so they all decide to go into business for themselves and attempt to launch a new product called the “Shower Buddy” (a glorified shower head with a shampoo dispenser) to consumers, which, to be fair, looks like something that couldn’t be sold at Dollar Stores for bargain bin pricing.  After a failed attempt to promote the product on live TV (not to mention offending the African American host with their business name, which inadvertently comes off as a hostile racial slur when spoken out loud), the boys become desperate and look to seek out financial partners.   

Their product does get noticed by a lucrative mail-order catalogue company, which is run by Rex (Chris Pine) and his dad (Christoph Waltz), and they decide to order 100,000 units.  Unfortunately, after Nick, Kurt, and Dale secure a loan and build the units their new business partners cancel the deal and reveal that they will buy up the rights to their company when they go belly up (those bloody bastards!).  Realizing that they have been taken again by "horrible bosses," the defeated trio decide – rather hastily and foolishly – to kidnap Rex and hold him ransom in hopes of securing a big payout from his stinking rich father.  They do this largely by the seat of their pants, which predictably leads to them failing on multiple fronts.  They even re-enlist the help of – ahem – Mother Fucker Jones (Jamie Foxx), whose advice seems even more cheaply cryptic than in the first film.  Needless to say, their plan to ransom Rex takes some surprising detours, especially when they get some assistance via a highly unlikely ally. 

I will say this about HORRIBLE BOSSES 2: Bateman, Sudeikis, and Day seem equal to the task of going for broke and doing just about anything to make fools of themselves in their performances (Day in particular has a hysterical knack for making his character’s shortcomings and perpetual failures kind of endearingly – and pathetically – funny).  I also like the addition of Chris Pine to the cast, whose skirt-chasing narcissist gives the film a much-needed jolt of unpredictable energy.  The film also has some nice sight gags, my favorite occurring when Day becomes self-congratulatory regarding the quality of his ransom note (made up of cutout letters from magazines) that are instantly sent flying off the paper when a car door is open and shut abruptly (the silly stooge forgot to glue the letters down).  The best jokes – as was the case in HORRIBLE BOSSES 1 – came at the expense of what naïve and ill-prepared greenhorns the main characters were at perpetrating crimes. 

Yet, that’s precisely what HORRIBLE BOSSES 2 lacks in spades.  In the first film you felt sorry for these affable schmucks because of their lack of poise in implementing their dastardly schemes, but this time they're reduced down to such blithering morons that you kind of want to slap some sense into them.  The unbridled idiocy of Dale, in particular, doesn’t make much sense.  He’s been established as a dental anesthesiologist, which requires, the last time I checked, a fairly intelligent person to perform daily.  Yet, in a scene that has him trying to dispense nitrous oxide to knock Rex out he fumbles the ball so badly that he knocks himself and his pals out instead.  Beyond that, it’s also never credibly established why the shrewd and intelligent one of the group (Nick) feels that kidnapping is their only viable solution for business success.  The lessons learned from their criminal activities in the last film should have reiterated to him that kidnapping is probably the worst possible decision he and his pals could make.  I hate it when dumb films make smart characters…dumb. 

Granted, HORRIBLE BOSSES 2 is populated by many great actors that are certainly above this middling material.  During the screening I mentally counted five Oscar wins between three of its stars, which is ultimately kind of depressing.  Spacey seems kind of wasted in his all-too-brief turn here, and, dear God, if you’re going to cast Christoph Waltz as the villain in a comedy at least give him a meaty role to play around with (he looks bored stiff in this film).  Aniston seems to reclaim her character’s shockingly amoral behavior as a sex addict for round two, but all of her incessant naughty talk and unsavory deeds seem more shoehorned into the script for the purposes of cheap and easy comedic payoffs.  That, and consider this: if the gender of her character were reversed would we consider date raping antics to be…funny?  Doubtful. 

I read that the original premise for HORRIBLE BOSSES 2 was going to have Bateman, Sudiekis, and Day as the bosses and have their employees want to take them out for being abused.  Now that would have been a ballsy sequel where the likeable losers from the first film become what they loathe the most.  Alas, HORRIBLE BOSSES 2 doesn’t have that type of raw comedic nerve.  It’s more of a rehash of the first film with some mild augmentations than a fully realized and novel follow-up entry.  That, and let’s be honest….this sequel struggles with a very reason to exist...outside, of course, of potential box office revenues.  Again, HORRIBLE BOSSES 2 is not so much a putrid sequel as it is a sloppy and pedestrian one.   

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