Saturday, December 13, 2014

Remember That Movie You Liked? This Is Similar, But Worse: Horrible Bosses 2

The Good: It’s not boring, Competent acting, Moments of social message
The Bad: Not funny, Low on character development, Nothing extraordinary on the acting front, Ridiculous plot reversals
The Basics: One of the least-inspired sequels in years, Horrible Bosses 2 is watchable, but not worth it.

When it was announced that Horrible Bosses (reviewed here!) had a sequel in the works, I was admittedly skeptical. The film did a decent job of bringing closure to the characters for the situation they were in and did not feel, to me, like a movie that needed any sort of follow-up. But when the first preview trailer of Horrible Bosses 2 came out, I allowed myself to get my hopes up. Unfortunately, Horrible Bosses 2 is one of the prime examples of how bad a sequel can be, stuffing a pathetic series of scenes in as “plot” after an extended opening which is essentially a “best of” the source material.

Horrible Bosses 2 continues the story of Nick, Kurt and Dale from Horrible Bosses and Horrible Bosses 2 actually does a decent job of standing on its own. Unfortunately, it is nowhere near as funny as the original and given how much of the first forty minutes has the main characters revisiting supporting characters from the original before the plot truly gets going. The result is a movie that belabors referencing Horrible Bosses before it transforms into a crime caper that is not at all funny or worthwhile.

Having quit their jobs working for their oppressive bosses, Nick, Kurt, and Dale come up with a new product, the Shower Buddy, which applies shampoo, conditioner, etc. from a shower head. But when they are on Good Morning Los Angeles making a product debut, their website name virtually destroys their ability to get investors. They are shocked, then, when an investor calls for a meeting. The next day, the trio meets with Rex Hanson, who wants to buy the Shower Buddy, but manufacture them in China. Unwilling to do that, the three men “bet on themselves” until Rex’s father, Bert, comes in and places an order for tens of thousands of Shower Buddies. After meeting their commitment by building a business from the ground up, Nick, Kurt, and Dale visit Bert with the good news and he tells them that he is cancelling the order. With their entire futures at risk, the three men decide that to get the money to save their business they will kidnap Rex and hold him for ransom from Bert.

After securing the Nitrous Oxide needed to knock out Rex, Nick, Kurt, and Dale, screw up and Rex becomes aware of their plan to extort Bert. Rex decides to play along with the scheme, but he ups the ransom amount from half a million dollars to five million. Despite Rex’s assurances, Bert refuses to pay the ransom and he goes right to the police. With Detective Hatcher investigating Nick, Kurt, and Dale, the trio begins to doubt they can pull off the fake kidnapping. When Rex escalates the situation by killing Bert, it looks like the three men will go down for his crime!

Horrible Bosses 2 is notable in that it is tragically un-funny. For a film that follows up a movie that has humor that replays well, Horrible Bosses 2 treads toward the banal and serious than wacky and humorous. Christoph Waltz, whose prior serious work The Zero Theorem (reviewed here!), illustrated what incredible range he had, is straightlaced and dull as Bert. But Waltz credibly delivers much of the film’s social commentary. Bert wants the Shower Buddy for pennies on the dollar and he is eager to destroy Nick, Kurt and Dale’s business and lives; he is a perfect allegory of big business in the United States. While Rex is more overt with the explicit problems of American labor, Bert illustrates how wealth creates wealth and American ingenuity is not dead, it is merely being undervalued by big business.

But Horrible Bosses 2 isn’t setting out to be a hard-hitting satire of American business, it’s a ridiculous crime caper. Much of the humor and potential joy for viewers comes from physical gags at the outset of the film and references to the first movie. Kevin Spacey’s Harken and Jamie Foxx’s Motherfucker Jones pop up in scenes where the protagonists are kicked down more than deliver any laughs. By the time Jennifer Aniston’s dentist character makes her appearance, even her fun parody of over-the-top sexuality plays poorly. The result is a sequel where the humor falls flat.

Chris Pine’s Rex is characterized as smug and brutal, which plays off of Jason Bateman’s Kurt’s realistic intelligence as particularly cruel. Bateman and Pine actually have the chops to make a pair of dramatic foils for a serious crime movie or a business scheme film. Unfortunately, Kurt’s seriousness and Rex’s ambition prevent the humor from having enough space to breathe. Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis deliver lines and physical gags that objectively could work, but their timing and the situation they are in do not work.

The result is a comedy sequel that falls flat and is not worth watching, despite moments of performance that hint at the talents of the performers involved.

For other films currently in theaters, please check out my reviews of:
To Write Love On Her Arms
The Seventh Son
Song One
Inherent Vice
Still Alice
The Interview
The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies
10,000 Days
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1


For other movie reviews, please check out my Film Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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