The premise of the original “Horrible Bosses,” released back in 2011, was chock full of that special comedy lightning in a bottle: take three dumb but motivated office desk jockeys who have bosses that fall somewhere between condescending, ruthless, and just plain awful, stick them in a bar together where they jokingly mull over the idea of killing said bosses — until they’re given the inspiration to dispose of each other’s bosses, “Strangers on a Train” style. That’s a decent setup for a comedy, but a stellar cast, including Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston, and Colin Farrell as the bosses, Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, and Jason Sudeikis as the disrespected drones, and Jamie Foxx as their “murder consultant” Motherf**** Jones took it over the top with tons of memorable moments and laughs that made up for a slightly uneven plot.
The fact that a film as self-contained and episodic in nature as “Horrible Bosses” was greenlit for a sequel says volumes about how desperate Hollywood must be to rake in money. It’s hard to make the idea “comedy sequel” sound worthwhile, no matter how successful the first film might’ve been, and even if you manage to, studios will take their sweet time getting a sequel ready; just ask the guys behind “Caddyshack,” “Ghostbusters,” “Anchorman,” and “Without A Paddle.” Three years later, the trio is back, dumb as ever, and going through the same motions, albeit with stale and needlessly offensive jokes, in “Horrible Bosses 2,” another drop in the bucket of bad comedy sequels.
This time around, Nick Hendricks (Bateman), Dale Arbus (Day), and Kurt Buckman (Sudeikis) have cut the middle man out and have gone into the business of being their own bosses through creating an innovative shower handle that they hope will take them over the top. Their plans are derailed when wealthy beneficiary Burt Henson, played by Christoph Waltz, offers to buy their product — and then backs out of the deal days beforehand, leaving the trio hundreds of thousands in debt. They decide to go the criminal route again, this time working together with Henson’s son Rex (Chris Pine) on a kidnapping scheme to get the money back.
The main thing that kills “Horrible Bosses 2” is the fact that it doesn’t bring anything new to the table humor-wise. The contemporary Three Stooges bit from the first movie, with Nick playing the straight man to Dale and Kurt’s mind-boggling stupidity, was cut in with other jokes about the guys’ relationships with their respective bosses and the crazy plot they tried to enact to get rid of them. Director Sean Anders, who also co-wrote with John Morris, relies almost entirely on the witless banter as the main source of humor for the movie and it strains to keep up. This time around, there are no horrible bosses to speak of, just a bunch of excuses for characters from the first movie, and a handful of new ones, to have another go-around, and it shows. The jokes are bland and even a little offensive in spots, and aside from a hilarious morning news show appearance featuring comedian Keegan-Michael Key and Kelly Stables, the insult to that injury is that there’s no laugh-inducing moments to make up for the overly crass atmosphere this time around.
There’s an interesting germ of an idea involving Chris Pine’s Rex Henson usurping the role of nominal leader of the group from Nick during the staged kidnapping, but it doesn’t go anywhere. It’s just more of the same this time around, but the jokes, broad characters, and convoluted plot don’t have the humorous connective tissue keeping them together. The cast has energy, but even reliable faces like Jennifer Aniston, Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx, and the forever typecasted Jason Bateman are trapped in the spiral of mediocrity. Chris Pine, normally a dead-eyed drone, is particularly lively here, but the spoiled billionaire’s son he’s playing here, like the rest of the cast, is criminally misused. It’s almost like Warner Bros. asked the cast to come back and re-enact the first movie after they binge-watching every episode of “Criminal Minds.” Unless you have something new or really funny to bring to the table, comedy sequels usually aren’t a good idea, and “Horrible Bosses 2” is the latest dud example being left on Hollywood’s doorstep.
The film hits theaters this Wednesday, November 26.
Check out photos from the Los Angeles premiere: