Horrible Bosses 2 (2014)
Editor’s Note: Horrible Bosses 2 opens in wide release today.
In general, comedies are low-risk, high-return commercial propositions. They’re made relatively cheaply, often with one or two mid-level (or lower) stars of the comedic variety. If they don’t hit, they quickly fade into obscurity, their losses, minimal in the grand scheme of Hollywood things, written off. If they hit, however, they’re money in the virtual bank for the studios financing them, making sequels, wanted or unwanted by audiences with short-term and long-term memory problems, as inevitable as the crude, vulgar, offensive jokes and gags that litter Horrible Bosses 2 like so many broken comedic dreams, the second entry in the soon-to-be Horrible Bosses trilogy (assuming, of course, Horrible Bosses 2 returns a sizable profit).
… crude, vulgar, offensive jokes and gags litter Horrible Bosses 2 like so many broken comedic dreams…
When we last left the trio of semi-heroes and protagonists at the center of Horrible Bosses 2, Nick Hendricks (Jason Bateman), Kurt Buckman (Jason Sudeikis), and Dale Arbus (Charlie Day), they had – individually and collectively – thrown and/or shaken off the yokes of capitalist oppression (timely given the idea of the 1% vs. 99% that’s permeated pop and political culture over the last half decade), escaping multiple felony charges in the process. With one horrible boss, Bobby Pellitt (Colin Farrell), dead at the hands (and gun) of another horrible boss, Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey), and a third boss, Dr. Julia Harris, D.D.S. (Jennifer Aniston), neutralized, Nick, Kurt, and Dale were free to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams (if any). We learn about the results of that pursuit in the first scene: The three friends and business partners pitch their latest (and only) invention, the “Shower Buddy” on a local morning show.
It goes sideways, of course, and depending on your tolerance for simulated masturbatory humor, it’s either a sign of good to great things to come or the exact opposite. Here’s a hint: It’s more the latter than the former. Short on cold, hard cash to kick start their idea (oddly Kickstarter doesn’t exist in the Horrible Bosses universe), they’re left with few alternatives. An ultra-wealthy businessman, Bert Hanson (Christoph Waltz), and his spoiled man-child son, Rex (Chris Pine), offer the trio an offer they can’t refuse (because it’s the only one). It seems too good to be true. It is. In short order, the elder Hanson has them by the proverbial testicles and they’re left with a $500,000 bridge loan due in mere days they can’t repay and the complete and utter loss of their business and patents.
Knowing a semi-good thing when he sees it (or rather saw it) co-writer and director Sean Anders reunites the three friends with their mentor in all things criminal, Dean “MF” Jones (Jamie Foxx). A hilarious cameo the first time out, Jones’ reappearance remains a singular bright spot in the Horrible Bosses universe. Together they hatch an idiotic plan to kidnap Rex and ransom him off for the $500,000 they need. Typically inept – if they weren’t, Horrible Bosses 2 wouldn’t be a comedy – they bungle the plan, but Rex, unhappy with his father’s inattention and all-around lack of respect jumps on the idea, becoming a willing kidnap victim in the process. The reintroduction of Dale’s chief tormentor and non-recovering nymphomaniac, Harris (Aniston, in case you’re not keeping track), adds an additional set of complications, alas with diminishing comedic returns.
The reintroduction of Dale’s chief tormentor and non-recovering nymphomaniac, Harris (Aniston, in case you’re not keeping track), adds an additional set of complications, alas with diminishing comedic returns.
As before, the R-rated humor in Horrible Bosses 2 turns on all manner of crudities, vulgarities, and otherwise offensive material. On an abstract level, there’s nothing wrong with R-rated humor, but the over-reliance on the F-word shows a distinct lack of imagination. Frequent jokes involving rape – presumably permissible because Dale, a male, is the intended victim – curdle seconds after they’re uttered. Maybe it’s time to retire rape jokes in general, regardless of the intended victim’s gender. Almost as importantly, the premise at the center of Horrible Bosses 2 grows staler by the minute, giving the jokes and gags an increasing sense of desperation. Only a fantasy sequence involving the ransom drop-off and the inevitable real world screw-up offers the spark of creativity and imagination Horrible Bosses 2 needed, but rarely got (no) thanks to Anders’ lackluster script and equally lackluster direction.
The premise at the center of Horrible Bosses 2 grows staler by the minute, giving the jokes and gags an increasing sense of desperation.