November 26, 2014 Leave a comment
Having sent his last boss to prison for a murder he himself planned, Nick Hendricks (Jason Bateman) has decided to become his own boss. Along with best friends Kurt Buckman (Jason Sudeikis) Dale Arbus (Charlie Day), Nick seeks the investment necessary in order to finance his premiere product: the Shower Buddy. When Burt Hanson (Christoph Waltz) bankrupts their business, before buying up their idea for next to nothing, however, they once again find themselves looking outside of the law for retribution. With the help of their criminal-on-call, Dean “Motherfucker” Jones (Jamie Foxx), Nick, Kurt and Dale plot to kidnap Burt’s son Rex (Chris Pine) and ransom him for the money necessary to buy back the Shower Buddy.
Green-lit on the back of the original film’s strong performance stateside, Horrible Bosses 2 reunites the surviving cast of Seth Gordon’s original for another go at the box office. The first film was — as Hollywood brom-coms go — something of a pleasant surprise, but by any other standard it was still a contrived, convoluted mess that had little going for it save for the odd gross-out gag or well-cast cameo. Certainly, it failed to deliver on its promise of dark comedy, settling instead for the sort of dim-wittedness that is unlikely to unsettle the masses. Although new to the franchise himself, replacement director Sean Anders keeps things on a remarkably even keel — bringing back screenwriters John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein for more of the same.
As a result, Horrible Bosses 2 is every bit as passable as its predecessor. Ex-bosses Kevin Spacey and Jennifer Aniston are back, at least — the former behind bars after killing Colin Farrell in the first film and the latter busy bedding the various members of her sex addiction clinic — and though in considerably diminished roles they just about manage to carry the film between them. Foxx, meanwhile, gets slightly more to do than before, and in addition to instigating a genuinely entertaining car chase during the third act he is seemingly the only character willing to consider the ethical implications of Nick, Kurt and Dale’s actions. Unlike last time, the supposed heroes of the piece are actually culpable of murder, but the filmmakers once again fail to address the issues of responsibility or justice, instead settling for a re-establishment of the status quo that feels neither earned or wanted.
It wouldn’t be such an issue if the protagonists were engaging enough to warrant a free pass — after all, beloved characters have got away with worse. While Bateman, Sudeikis and Day may have some semblance of chemistry it is not enough to compensate for their wholly unpleasant, utterly uninteresting characters. The uncomfortably unsavoury undercurrents remain, and many of the ‘jokes’ seem to be at the expense of some subgroup or other — never overt enough to cause actual controversy, but dubious nonetheless. It’s difficult to root for characters who are lauded for their ignorance, and unable to simply laugh off flippant displays of homophobia or misogyny you quickly lose any and all interest in their plight. By film’s end you’re ready to flag Jonathan Banks’ Detective Hatcher over and give evidence against all three of them. Having now exhausted murder and kidnapping you daren’t begin to imagine what hilarious hi-jinx might await them in part three.
But the chances are you will laugh, on occasion (I’m ashamed to admit that I did, anyway); but hopefully it will be completely against your better judgement. The actors are competent enough comedians to get their timing and delivery right, regardless of the quality of the gags themselves. That said, the qualifier in the title might just as easily stand alone. This one is Horrible, too.