Review of “Horrible Bosses 2”

Nick Hendricks, Kurt Buckman and Dale Arbus (Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day) have quit their day jobs and formed their own company to manufacture and sell a device called the Shower Buddy that is supposed to help make showering faster and easier. During an appearance on a LA morning TV show, they are looking for investors and quickly gets a call from Rex Hanson (Chris Pine) representing a major catalog retailer. During their meeting, Hanson tell the boys how production will be sent to their Chinese factories and Hanson’s company will be the exclusive sellers for the Shower Buddy in exchange for a one-time cash payment. Deciding they want to keep production in America, the boys turn down the offer. That’s when Hanson’s father, Bert Hanson (Christoph Waltz), enters and, after berating his son, makes the guys another offer: He will help them get start-up capital with a loan from a bank he suggests to set up their factory and place an initial order of 100,000 units. The guys quickly agree and they shake on it. Quickly getting the loan, the guys rent space, install equipment, buy supplies and hire workers. When the 100,000 units are ready, the three head out to tell Bert Hanson. He’s glad to hear the units are ready but then cancels the order. He explains how the bank won’t give them an extension and they will have to file bankruptcy, allowing him to purchase all their stock for pennies on the dollar and cut Nick, Kurt and Dale out completely. Not knowing what to do, they go see Nick’s old boss Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey) who is in prison for attempted murder. Getting only insults from Harken, the boys go back to the plant and try to figure out a plan. Eventually, they decide to kidnap Rex Hanson and demand $500,000, the amount they owe the bank, in ransom. After their initial plan fails miserably, the guys decide to call it off when they open the trunk to Kurt’s car and find Rex inside. He figured out the boys were going to kidnap him and decided he wanted to get back at his dad for not paying for his lavish lifestyle. Rex says they should ask for $5-million with the boys getting one-million and Rex getting the rest. Since Rex essentially kidnapped himself, the boys feel like they are in the clear and they go along with his idea. Naturally, things don’t go quite as planned…not even close.

“Horrible Bosses 2” does its best to be cruder and more outrageous than the original. It largely succeeds at pushing the sexually suggestive content to new heights (or depths depending on your opinion of such humor) and picking up the pace with even more frenetic acting from the three leads, especially Charlie Day. Turning the shock value up to 11 doesn’t make this second outing any better than the original. It essentially tells the same story of the little guy trying to take out the boss. This time, it isn’t nearly as fresh or imaginative but it does manage to pack its 108-minute running time with plenty of laughs.

The thing I found most annoying about the first film is at the top of my list for the second film: Charlie Day’s spastic character grates on my nerves for nearly the whole movie. Dale is in dire need of a tranquilizer, preferably delivered via one of those guns they use to bring down elephants. Day’s voice ratchets up in pitch as his character becomes more and more frantic or gets involved in an argument. It is akin to a combination of nails on a chalk board and the sound of cats mating. How the Nick and Kurt characters don’t strangle Dale is beyond me. Dale seems to be the one who contributes the least to all their shenanigans and often makes the mistake that leads to their failure. If Day would tone down the volume and the pitch, Dale might have been a more tolerable character. As it is I want to push screwdrivers through both my ears to make the sound stop.

Fortunately, the rest of the cast is far more enjoyable. Jason Bateman is the conscience of the group and the calm eye at the center of the hurricane of insanity. Even though his common sense ideas are usually ignored, he still provides some much needed reality to what is a completely fantastical premise. Bateman is great as the deadpan straight man to Jason Sudeikis’ horn dog Kurt. Constantly on the prowl for his next conquest, Kurt is blissfully ignorant to what a pig he is. As the guys interview potential employees, Kurt is unconcerned with their resume or experience: He’s far more interested in their looks and measurements. When he’s informed he can’t try to bed any of the beautiful young women he’s hired, Kurt expresses disappointment at having to fire them all. When he’s told he can’t do that either, he pitches a fit like a five-year old. Sudeikis may be playing a pig but he’s a charming one. It’s difficult to be offended by Kurt’s behavior as his face is always plastered with a friendly smile and he’s willing to do whatever it takes to make sure his friends are successful in their harebrained schemes. Chris Pine is probably the standout as Rex Hanson. His spoiled rich kid who enjoys questionable practical jokes and a rocky relationship with his father provides the momentum of the story and keeps the film barreling toward its conclusion. He’s a giant tool but is also somewhat sympathetic as he learns the truth about his father’s feelings for him after the fake kidnapping. Pine is also a gifted comic actor who provides a fair number of laughs in a movie stuffed with funny people. Christoph Waltz is a fairly generic villain and he doesn’t have that much screen time. His character is able to make us dislike him once his deception is exposed but there’s not much more to the character than that. Kevin Spacey is a breath of fresh air in every performance. He’s only in two scenes but he’s magic in both. Jennifer Aniston is back as the lecherous Dr. Julia Harris and makes a convincing sex addict. Her filthy mouth is nearly overwhelming and pushed even me to the edge of being offended (which is no small feat). Aniston also is a joy to watch in her limited scenes and manages to be a major part of the plot despite her peripheral involvement in the story. Jamie Foxx is also back as the trio’s criminal consultant Dean “MF’er” Jones. With his scalp and neck tattoos, Jones is far more intimidating looking that he is in reality. He’s somewhat henpecked and has terrible negotiation skills. Foxx is also able to hijack the plot on a couple of occasions bringing a bit of surprise to a somewhat predictable story.

It’s the predictability of the movie that somewhat lessons the comedic impact. We know everything the trio tries to do will somehow fail yet they will come out largely unscathed. We saw it the first time and we get more of the same in the sequel. There’s something to be said for the old saying “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” However, there’s another saying that goes “Familiarity breeds contempt.” “Horrible Bosses 2” is awfully familiar and the filmmakers have certainly not fixed anything. I have to complement the film for having a huge number of jokes and laughs jammed onto the screen. Many comedies, especially sequels, commit the cardinal sin of being unfunny; however, “Horrible Bosses 2” may go a bit too far with the sexual content as it opens up a whole area of deviancy that rarely gets talked about in a mainstream film, even in an R-rated comedy. I have no problem with filthy humor and frank discussion and depiction of human sexuality; but “Horrible Bosses 2” seems to depend far too much on trying to shock the audience by being as crude as possible. Filth can be funny but piled on the way it is here it starts to smother the laughs.

“Horrible Bosses 2” is rated R for strong crude sexual content and language throughout. The most crude and sexual content revolves around Aniston’s character. A scene where she is hosting a Sex Addicts Anonymous meeting in her dental office features numerous graphic descriptions of various sexual activities. Later in the film we also see some sexual activity recorded by security cameras. The views are brief and not much can be made out but the activity is obvious. There is a shooting that leads to a death. Foul language is common throughout.

It doesn’t live up to the brilliant original but “Horrible Bosses 2” does manage to pack a great number of laughs in its running time. It could have been funnier if the script writers didn’t depend so much on trying to shock us into submission with sexual humor. Some of it works but a great deal of it just feels like overkill. Despite this, we are introduced to a surprisingly effective comedic performance by Chris Pine and a cast that manages to rise above the more base elements of the script.

“Horrible Bosses 2” gets four stars out of five.

It doesn’t look like there are any new movies opening this week which seems odd. I’ll review something but I don’t know what it will be. Until then, enjoy the “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” trailer.

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