In a perfect world, other than films that are already part of a planned series, sequels wouldn’t exist. Production studios, producers and writers wouldn’t rely so heavily on title recognition and consistently churn out original material. Alas, perfection doesn’t exist, and so we are left to wallow in constant sequels, prequels, spinoffs and rehashes, most of which could never capture the magic of the original film, and for the most part feel lame, ordinary or repetitive (see The Hangover, Part II). Yet with any rule, there are always exceptions (such as Terminator 2: Judgement Day and The Godfather: Part II), but they are few and far between, mostly because producers are only hoping to capitalize on the popularity rather than doing so because of artistic integrity. So when a film like Horrible Bosses (a decent comedy, but not one a whole lot of people were begging to see more of) makes just enough money to warrant an unnecessary sequel, I was a bit shocked to find that Horrible Bosses 2 not only doubles down on everything the first film had to deliver, but ends up creating a winning piece of entertainment.
All three working stiffs from the original are back, but this time, they’ve teamed up to create their own business based around the production of a product known as the shower buddy. All three actors are in fine form, building on the spotty chemistry from the first film to create a relationship that feels genuine. The first scene, in which the boys appear on a morning talk show, reintroduces us to the team by delivering the necessary exposition in a fun, clever and natural way, while at the same time making sure we remember why these guys were so fun to watch to begin with. Jason Sudeikis remains affably clueless as Kurt Buckman; Charlie Day is as loyal as ever as manic family man Dale Arbus; and as Nick Hendricks, Jason Bateman continues to be the logical center of this team of quirky misfits. With his laid-back, thoughtful approach, Bateman remains the heart that keeps the film’s insanity grounded. The sequence, with its rapid-fire wit and nonchalant filth, also sets the tone for the remainder of the film with tremendous accuracy.
Joining the core group this time around is Chris Pine as Rex Hanson, an entitled, arrogant rich-kid who reaches out to the boys to buy them out of their company. Pine, adding smarm and charm to a group of otherwise likable losers, compliments the group by pumping in just the right amount of extra juice to keep the film from feeling like a carbon copy of the original. He’s intelligent and cocky with a flair for manipulative practices, so it’s quite easy to see why our trio would team up with him to extort five million dollars in ransom money from Rex’s father, Bert Hanson (Christoph Waltz), after he nearly bankrupts the company in an underhanded attempt to steal their product.
Of course, the kidnapping wasn’t Rex’s idea. It was Kurt’s idea, and as it goes with these three characters, nothing ever goes as planned. But that’s where the humor is mined and nurtured. It relishes in the fact that these guys are bumbling idiots who want to believe they’re mischievous, conniving and capable of being criminals, but who in the end are just regular guys living regular lives and occasionally make a mistake or two that get a little out of hand, especially when they enlist the help of others like Motherf***** Jones (Jaime Foxx, returning with just as much odd flair), who pretends to know what they’re talking about simply to feel important (and perhaps using the guys incompetence against them).
Foxx isn’t the only returning co-star. Writers Sean Anders (who also directed) and John Morris find clever ways to bring both of the original (surviving) bosses back. Kevin Spacey makes a delicious cameo appearance as Nick’s old boss, Dave Harken, bringing along his steely gaze to continue to intimidate, ridicule and downsize his former employee. After being arrested for the murder of Colin Farrell’s character in the first film, Nick seeks out Harken in prison for advice at getting back at Bert for the underhanded business deal. Watching Bateman react to Spacey’s vindictiveness is terrific. Tack on a great moment at the end of the movie and Spacey nearly steals the entire film while sitting behind a giant pane of glass in an orange jumpsuit.
Bringing back Jennifer Aniston’s overtly sexual Dr. Julia Harris was a little trickier, but because it was done so smoothly, her return ends up making perfect sense. The initial idea the boys have for getting the money to save the company is to break into Rex’s home and keep him knocked out with Nitrous oxide. Why? Because Dale still has the pass code to Dr. Harris’s dental office. As they are in the process of stealing said Nitrous, Julia arrives unexpectedly with a group of sex addicts, leading to one of the more awkwardly weird group discussions involving Nick’s accidental admission and Julia’s persistence to have sex with him, a set-up of which leads to some extremely funny moments later on in the film — especially the layers of innuendo at the very end.
In the first film, the characters (with the exception of Bateman) leaned more heavily toward outrageous caricatures than real people, but here, that outrageousness, though still flying high, is subdued just enough to make them feel authentic. In one inspired scene right out of The Simpsons playbook, MF Jones helps the guys by drawing the police into a chase through the city (and for the sake of spoilers, I won’t go into the details of why). At one point, forgetting that they want the cops to follow them, MF Jones jumps the train tracks just as an oncoming train flies by, so the boys are forced to wait for the monster of a train. The entire moment is so absurd it’s fascinating… and is a great example of where the humor sits for the majority of the film.
As would be expected, not all of the jokes hit their mark, but in a film that keeps an amazingly steady stream of laughs humming from start to finish, the hits far outweigh the misses. Some are funnier than others and some are a bit recycled (including one that’s pulled almost directly from the first film, but which the script makes fun off in a nice meta twist — which is also noted in the series of outtakes during the credits), but with a spin on the concept that feels more practical than the first film’s Strangers On a Train conceit (even while maintaining the tongue-in-cheek absurdity of it all), Horrible Bosses 2 stands as a strong follow-up to a film that didn’t really even need a sequel.
My Grade: A
Next week, new movies include The Pyramid, Wild and Dying of the Light. If you would like to see a review of one of these, or any other film out next week, please respond in the comments below.