While 2011’s Horrible Bosses doesn’t hold up quite as well as I had hoped it would, the chemistry between leads Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, and Jason Sudeikis is still a lot of fun. Watching the three actors bounce off each other is electric as they bicker and argue like foul-mouthed children. Comedy sequels are always tough, but Horrible Bosses 2 makes the wise decision to shake things up not only in terms of avoiding a rehash of the first film’s plot, but also changing the tone of the comedy and the trio’s dynamic. Although the movie falters at the end, Horrible Bosses 2 feels surprisingly fresh while never losing what made the original work so well.
Nick (Bateman), Kurt (Sudeikis), and Dale (Day) have decided to go into business for themselves, and they have a solid (albeit silly) invention in the “Shower Buddy”, a device that helps automate the showering process. When they’re approached by the wealthy Rex Hanson (Chris Pine) about purchasing the device, they decline the offer so they can keep ownership of their business. But when Rex’s father Bert (Christoph Waltz) provides the sweet deal to purchase 100,000 units while the trio gets to keep the company, they jump at the opportunity. Unfortunately, it’s a trap and the guys are put in a $500,000 hole and risk losing their product to Bert. They decide to turn to crime once again by kidnapping Rex for ransom, but the plan spirals out of control.
Rather than stick closely to the plot of the first film—the guys have new bosses and this time they’re even worse! WOMP WOMP—Horrible Bosses 2 makes Nick, Kurt, and Dale the horrible ones as they’re too naïve to see what Bert’s pulling, and then they resort to crime even though they know they’re lousy criminals. It’s a nice change that doesn’t pull us too far from what worked in the previous movie, but we’re not in for a retread either, although the plot clumsily and unnecessarily brings back supporting characters Julia (Jennifer Aniston) and Harken (Kevin Spacey) because we enjoyed them the first time around. There’s nothing wrong with their performances, but the two horrible bosses were essentially defeated in the first movie, so sticking them in the sequel feels like a concession to the audience rather than a strong addition to the story.
Motherfucka Jones (Jamie Foxx) also returns, and while he’s still a tad superfluous, Foxx has more to do this time around, and the character is much funnier as a result. In the first film, he was an amusing plot device, and while he still somewhat serves the same function, Foxx has a better read on what he wants to do and how he wants to interact with his co-stars. The film also plays up his unexpected eccentricities, which we only glimpsed in the first movie when we learned about why he went to jail.
Changing the nature of the movie’s comedy is where Horrible Bosses 2 finds new life and establishes itself as more than just the same characters in new shenanigans. From the opening scene involving a malfunction with the Shower Buddy, director Sean Anders shows us he’s giving the sequel a far more farcical tone than the original as there are plenty of sight gags and ping-pong dialogue as opposed to the more free-flow style of the original where it was a lot of comical bumbling mixed with the energy of the three lead actors.
Bateman, Day, and Sudeikis are still great together, but their relationship is a bit different this time. In the first film, Dale is the hyperactive child, and Kurt and Nick have to put him in his place. This time, a large portion of the comedy is watching Kurt and Dale behave like overactive children and Nick has to be the adult in the room. It’s a bit of a bummer to see Bateman once again relegated to the straight-man role, although he does get a killer scene with Aniston.
I was laughing almost non-stop through the picture, but the final twenty minutes of the film fumbles badly as the story lapses into full-blown sequel-itis followed by a rape joke and then a conclusion that I’m shocked got past test audiences since it’s kind of a downer. These missteps don’t ruin the movie, but they leave a bad aftertaste when so much of what came before worked so well.
Despite the success of the first two movies, I’m not sure if we’ll need a Horrible Bosses 3. I enjoyed seeing the main characters again, but by the end of this installment they were beginning to wear on me. Nevertheless, this is the rare comedy sequel that’s at least meets the level of its predecessor. If you’re looking for some solid R-rated comedy, Horrible Bosses 2 gets the job done.