19 December 2014 | jeffdrollins
An unnecessary but funny sequel
Hollywood's strategy of wringing every last ounce of life out of a successful idea via sequels, prequels, spin-offs and the "partification" of films has been discussed to death. At this point I'm almost as tired of having that discussion as I am seeing the subject at hand play out in real life, over and over again. It is with this mindset that, upon seeing the trailer for Horrible Bosses 2 for the first time, I loudly sighed in my theater seat and thought to myself, "Why the hell are they doing this?" And despite the actual answer being EASY MONEY, after actually seeing Horrible Bosses 2, I can honestly make a case that maybe – just maybe – these people actually wanted to get together again and make a funny movie for the sake of comedy. Exhibit A: The jokes are solid and, in most cases, funnier than the first film's. Part of that is a result of just letting a joke breathe and flourish naturally via timing and delivery. One gag in particular regarding the use of walkie-talkies nearly made me choke on my popcorn specifically because of how well it was executed through dialog alone. The first Horrible Bosses was more comparable to The Hangover films in that a group of white guys get in over their head and endure insane circumstances, each one more outlandish than the one before it. This time around, while we're still very much in the Hangover spirit of storytelling (I use that term in the loosest of senses), the film is much more reliant upon the comedic chemistry between our three leading men. That leads me to
Exhibit B: This cast is simply fantastic. Reprising their roles as Nick (Jason Bateman) the straight man, Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) the womanizer, and Dale (Charlie Day) the fool, the three stars of this film bounce lines off one another like bumper cars to increasingly hilarious effect. Bateman shines brightest and that speaks volumes on his talent considering he's been playing variations of this role for nearly his entire career without the shtick showing any signs of wear – at least as far as this film is concerned. Sudeikis and Day get to play human cartoon characters the entire film and it simply just works. Also back is Jamie Foxx as the criminal consigliere, "Motherf***er Jones." While this character did nothing for me the first go-round, this time I find myself enjoying his dimwitted power plays and Big Gulp inflected sit- downs. Jennifer Aniston also returns as her sex-addicted dentist from the first film and gets to appear in the funniest scene of Horrible Bosses 2. Newcomers Chris Pine and Christoph Waltz also bring a welcome exaggerated Big Business brass ballsiness element to the film's central plot that just makes the story that much more relevant. Speaking of the plot
Exhibit C: This story is conducive to comedy as well as being socially relevant. Nick, Kurt and Dale have created a product that Christoph Waltz agrees to help manufacture. Once the order has been completed, Waltz's character then cancels the order in a strategy that will allow him to purchase the product at pennies on the dollar once our three heroes have to claim bankruptcy. In a climate where we are mistrusting of the unscrupulous 1%, this plot has a sort of resonance that hits home with modern movie goers. I'm also fairly certain that more folks can relate to being screwed over by their boss (or the boss's conniving underling) than they can to their mega-hot co-worker trying to seduce them against their will. Basically, this film corrects every issue I had with the first one in that it unifies the protagonists motivations with the audience's desire for them to stick it to the man. It reaches across the aisle and finds a middle ground we can all agree on – and then it amps it up to mach speed by way of kidnap, hostage taking and much worse.
With all this praise you might think I'm ready to call this a modern comedy classic. I'm not. Horrible Bosses 2 has problems. It's not shy to rely on gross-out gags, it has no shame in reprising jokes from the first film (albeit sparingly so), and it might as well have been directed by Apple CEO Tim Cook because, as Erik Walkuski of ScreenCrush noted in a tweet, Horrible Bosses 2 looks like it was filmed on an iPhone. That is to say there is no personality to the look of the film. It just is. While that's not a major concern for a comedy, it does leave a bit to be desired in the aesthetics department.
I present my case that Horrible Bosses 2 is a win for everyone. Hollywood will make a nice payday while being able to say, "See! People want more of the same" without a hint of irony to be found. Audiences will get to laugh for a straight 110 minutes in the company of characters they already know they like spending time with based on the success of the first film. And although this could mean "more of the same" is all we're ever going to get, I'd like to put a positive spin on things and hope that maybe someone behind the scenes is paying attention. Maybe, just maybe, someone will pick up on the fact that this film is better than the first because it's actually just better in every sense of the word. Probably not though. *a football hits me in the groin and a laugh track explodes from an unknown dimension*