Horrible Bosses 2, 2014
Directed by Sean Anders
Starring Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, Charlie Day, Jennifer Aniston, Chris Pine, Christoph Waltz, Jamie Foxx and Kevin Spacey
Dale, Kurt and Nick decide to start their own business but things don’t go as planned because of a slick investor, prompting the trio to pull off a harebrained and misguided kidnapping scheme.
Getting a comedy sequel right is a very, very tricky task and its so often done wrong. For every 22 Jump Street, American Pie 2 or Wayne’s World 2, you get The Hangover 2, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, Son of The Mask, Men in Black II, Blues Brothers 2000, Porky’s Revenge etc. The ratio of bad to good is almost staggering. So the fact that Horrible Bosses 2 is actually half-decent is a miracle unto itself.
The first Horrible Bosses was quite the surprise hit among critics and rightly so. While the comedy movie scene has been filled with half-baked sequels or dreadful Adam Sandler or Kevin James outings, Horrible Bosses felt like a fresh change of pace. So much so that it even proved that the likes of Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston could make funny movies outside of their TV outings, and not tripe like The Switch. Where Horrible Bosses 2 succeeds is that it doesn’t fall into the same pitfalls that The Hangover 2 or Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues plunged down; where you just copy and paste scenes from the original but give them a new background. Horrible Bosses 2 isn’t Malibu Stacey with a New Hat – it’s a different movie.
This time around, our hapless fools are now running their own business (the unfortunately named NickKurtDale) and are looking to promote their first and only product, The Shower Buddy. During a failed meeting with arrogant businessman Chris Pine, they strike a distribution deal with his father played by a brilliant Christoph Waltz. However, Waltz was just out to screw them and now the Nick, Kurt and Dale are on the verge of being bankrupt. In order to save their failure-laden lives, they stage a kidnapping of Chris Pine – only to discover that Pine wants in on the action in order to get his father to love him more.
It’s a fairly convoluted set-up that doesn’t quite capture the simple magic of “down-trodden employees plot to kill bosses”, but it does bring about some decent laughs. Bateman, Sudeikis and Day fall right back into their roles and it’s like they never left them. Bateman is the level-headed but easily swayed straight man, Sudeikis is the follow-along Yes Man, and Day is the loud-mouthed man-child who always seems to be doing things wrong. And while they’re all really great in their roles, it’s Chris Pine who steals the spotlight and seems to be having an insane amount of fun on set, which then shines through the screen. This is not the bland expressionless actor from Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit or Star Trek Into Darkness, this is a man who is having a ball and it works so well for his barmy character. Christoph Waltz is brilliant as previously mentioned, but he seems uncomfortable in this comedy role at times, something that is apparent during his “credit blooper” where he looks embarrassed more than anything else.
It’s not all good news though as Horrible Bosses 2 doesn’t fully succeed in being its own movie, falling into one of the pitfalls we’ve brought into light in this review. Not in terms of plot, but in bringing back characters with sitcom-like applause button execution. Jamie Foxx returns to do the same (albeit funny) schtick he did in the first movie as does the cameoing Kevin Spacey. The latter of which is nice at least as it’s funny to see that even though these morons outsmarted him and put in prison, they are still subservient to him. The script also wheels out Jennifer Aniston to reprise her role of the sex-obsessed Julia for no other reason than she was a popular element of the first movie. Little complaints really as she is fabulous in the role, but it does put Horrible Bosses 2 in the “treating rape as a punchline” crosshairs once again.
Horrible Bosses 2 also never quite manages to be as funny as its predecessor either. It would be insanely unfair to call it a dud as there are plenty of laughs to be found, but Anders and John Morris’ script never quite matches Michael Markowitz and John Francis Daley’s original. The characters are there, the story is there and Anders actually pulls out some solid direction, but Horrible Bosses 2 struggles to be anything more than average. Does it pass the Mark Kermode Six Laugh Test? With flying colours. But sadly none of those laughs are from the belly.
Red flags may have been raised when it was first announced, but Horrible Bosses 2 has managed to silence its critics – even if it doesn’t do it that convincingly. The cast are on top form, the story is very enthralling and for the most part, the comedy is spot on. A few stumbling blocks here and there does mean that it’s never anything above ★★★, but that’s a lot better than 90% of comedy sequels. If you’re a fan of the first movie, you will have a ball – otherwise it’s just a fun romp that’s funnier than most comedies movies in 2014.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Luke Owen is the Deputy Editor of Flickering Myth and the host of the Flickering Myth Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @LukeWritesStuff.