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Riding a wave of ribald comedies seeking to close out the year with a chorus of chuckles, Sean Anders‘ Horrible Bosses 2 barely skips a beat picking up from its predecessor, reintroducing a trio of hapless worker drones discovering their entrepreneurial inspiration and seeking to become CEOs themselves. Although not everyone will be giving thanks as this sequel lands on the upcoming holiday weekend, some will certainly seize on the film’s familiar casting and relatable situations as reason enough to celebrate.
Dispensing with any details regarding how the protagonists managed in their newly realigned work situations following the convoluted events that concluded Horrible Bosses, the follow-up finds Nick (Jason Bateman), Dale (Charlie Day) and Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) striking out together with an undernourished plan to secure investors for their prototype “shower buddy,” a device that dispenses soap, shampoo and conditioner from a single bathroom fixture.
Without sufficient startup capital, or much of a clue, they hope that their appearance on an L.A. morning news TV show will give them a boost. Improbably, they’re swiftly contacted by Boulder Stream, a massive Sharper Image-type mail-order catalog company. They gladly accept an offer from CEO Bert Hanson (Christoph Waltz) to purchase 10,000 shower buddy units, take out a $500,000 bank loan and set up a manufacturing operation. Proving they’re no better at giving orders than they were at taking them, the partners hire a motley staff of shockingly unqualified job seekers and proceed to turn out the massive Boulder Stream job in record time.
Watch more ‘Horrible Bosses 2’ Trailer 2
Hanson promptly cancels the order, however, intending to force the entrepreneurs into bankruptcy and snap up the shower devices at a fraction of the wholesale cost. Demonstrating the same woefully weak critical thinking skills that almost landed them in jail for planning to kill their intolerably obnoxious bosses in the previous episode, the men hit on a plan that’s equally harebrained. They figure that kidnapping Hanson’s intolerably smug son Rex (Chris Pine) should net them enough ransom money to pay off their debt and remain in business.
Once again, they seek advice on pulling off the crime from convicted movie pirate Dean “MF” Jones (Jamie Foxx), as well as Nick’s ruthless former supervisor Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey), whose incarceration for murdering Kurt’s old boss hasn’t mellowed out his killer business instincts in the least. What they don’t count on is Rex turning the tables on them, drawing the three into a new plan to defraud his father that’s so complex that they’re sure to royally screw it up.
Aside from the easily relatable wish fulfillment inherent in the franchise’s premise, the simplicity of the movies’ setups represents a consistent virtue, providing plenty of room for convoluted complications to ensue. However, scripters Anders and John Morris, who also have Dumb and Dumber To coming up, can’t seem to surmount the problem of repetitive plotting that also characterized the first film. While individual scenes sometimes rise to a level of inspired absurdity, taken together they feel excessively episodic. Progress is also hindered by too much similarity between the characters: Nick’s bemused straight man overlaps excessively with Kurt’s unreliable yes man, and both are only slightly less clueless than Dale’s dim-bulb everyman.
The actors imbue their roles with enough likability that it hardly seems to matter, at least until the jokes start growing stale well before the film’s midpoint. Instead, it’s the supporting cast that really shines, with Spacey practically spitting depravity from behind prison walls, Foxx laying on the wannabe gangster routine nice and thick and Jennifer Aniston returning as Dale’s foul-mouthed, sex-addicted former employer. Although Waltz’s supercilious business mogul would have benefited from more screen time, Pine as his overly entitled son introduces such manic humor that he manages to steal more than a few scenes, although the comedy overall feels more forced than organic as the action enters the final act.
Anders’ well-attuned comic sensibility makes for moments of hilarity in some of the more originally conceived scenes, but bogs down in predictability with reliance on too many stock situations that absorb the bulk of the running time. Seasoned comedy cinematographer Julio Macat’s adept lensing heightens the film’s frequent visual humor while adding in some energetically staged chase sequences, invigoratingly assembled by editor Eric Kissack.
Production companies: New Line Cinema, Benderspink/RatPac Entertainment
Cast: Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston, Jamie Foxx, Chris Pine, Christoph Waltz, Kevin Spacey
Director: Sean Anders
Screenwriters: Sean Anders, John Morris
Producers: Brett Ratner, Jay Stern, Chris Bender, John Rickard, John Morris
Executive producers: Toby Emmerich, Richard Brener, Michael Disco, Samuel J. Brown, John Cheng, Diana Pokorny, Steve Mnuchin
Director of photography: Julio Macat
Production designer: Clayton Hartley
Costume designer: Carol Ramsey
Editor: Eric Kissack
Music: Christopher Lennertz
Casting director: Rachel Tenner
Rated R, 108 minutes
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