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"HORRIBLE BOSSES 2"
(2014) (Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis) (R)


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QUICK TAKE:
Comedy: Three friends go into business together, get bilked out of their finances and invention, and then seek revenge.
PLOT:
Nick (JASON BATEMAN), Kurt (JASON SUDEIKIS), and Dale (CHARLIE DAY) are three friends who once plotted to kill their respective bad bosses. Their bumbling ways got them into hot water with the police. But, ultimately, they never were able to go through with their plan. A couple of years later, they are looking to go into business for themselves and never have bosses again after coming up with a "Shower Buddy" invention that dispenses shampoo, body soap, and water at the same time.

A wealthy retail magnate named Bert Hanson (CHRISTOPH WALTZ) and his arrogant, impulsive son Rex (CHRIS PINE) offer to bankroll their initial development of the product in return for exclusive distribution rights in their stores. Unfortunately, Bert hoodwinks them into developing the initial 100,000 units and then is able to lay claim to their patent. Irate, Nick, Kurt, and Dale seek advice from the only two people they believe can help them: Nick's spectacularly snide and crooked former boss, Dave Harken (KEVIN SPACEY), now in prison; and small-time hoodlum Dean "Mother F*cker" Jones (JAMIE FOXX).

They eventually settle on kidnapping Rex and blackmailing Bert for the hundreds of thousands of dollars he bilked from them. Their harebrained scheme runs into two complications: One, Dale's former dentist boss, Julia (JENNIFER ANISTON), is still on the make and hot for both him and Nick; and two, Rex is overly eager to be the guys' kidnapping victim so he can also bamboozle some money out of his wealthy dad.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
The sequel "Horrible Bosses 2" suffers from what I like to call Judd Apatow-bias. It features a large cast of game comedians who have been funny in other films prior to this, who are given free rein here to ad-lib, improv, and riff to their heart's content. The end result is an overly chatty, often wink-wink affair that succeeds only so far as each individual audience member is able to tolerate the lazy hijinks and rehashed plot elements of the first film.

I really only have very faint praise for this film, folks. I like it better than "Dumb and Dumber To" and much better than the third "Hangover" film. But I despised both of them. This is more on the level of "The Hangover Part II." It has some big laughs. But there is no inspiration behind it. Few chances are taken here with the premise or the characters. It's basically more of a revisit than an actual movie. Even worse ... it's not really about horrible bosses anymore! The fun and the whole point of the first film was for us the audience members to live vicariously through Nick (Jason Bateman), Kurt (Jason Sudeikis), and Dale (Charlie Day) trying to off their bad company overlords.

This time out? The three guys are looking to become bosses themselves. They have what they think is a multimillion-dollar invention (it's not) called the Shower Buddy that a wealthy retail magnate named Bert Hanson (Christoph Waltz) cheats them out of. Broke and looking at the prospect of having to go back into the job pool, the guys decide to kidnap Bert's arrogant son, Rex (Chris Pine, giving the film's best performance), and hold him for ransom. Nick, Dale, and Kurt are surprised when Rex hates his dad as much as they do and agrees to be their willing hostage to bilk even more money out of the guy.

Along the way, they seek the advice of Nick's now-jailed boss, Dave (Kevin Spacey), from the film and small-time hoodlum, Dean "Mother-****er" Jones (Jamie Foxx), and then run afoul of Dale's sex-addicted former boss, Julia (Jennifer Aniston), from the first film. What the first film did so well -- distorting and skewering the American workplace -- this film virtually ignores. There's nothing really relatable here, and the script doesn't make Waltz's Bert loathsome enough to want to see him get his comeuppance. In fact, his final fate is really anything but funny.

The film is also a little tone-deaf when it comes to its more daring stabs at comedy. Rex is briefly shown verbally and physically abusing his Asian housekeeper. It's not in any way funny. But it would have been good groundwork if 1) they Rex the bad guy throughout; and 2) made the Asian housekeeper a part of the character dynamic here and had her participate in the final outcome of the film. But she's never heard from again.

The film also briefly flirts with making Kurt, Dale, and Nick horrible bosses themselves, which would have been an interesting and even daring turn for the sequel. Once they get some start-up capital, there is a montage sequence of interviews in which Kurt hires nothing but beautiful, unqualified women on the spot and then despairs when Nick informs him that he can't sleep with them. When he hears this, he basically responds with "What's the point then? Let's fire them and hire some actual qualified people?" To which Nick points out that that is similarly illegal. There are also some bits that make the guys look just plain stupid, such as naming their website NickKurtDale.com, which when said together -- and it's said several times in the film -- sounds like a terrible racial epithet.

It's one of those flicks where for every three or four bits that land flat, something happens that is flat-out funny that makes you stick with it. Spacey dressing down Nick, Kurt, and Dale from prison for their idiocy is a great scene, as are the three guys doing absurdly over-the-top Southern accents when demanding ransom from Waltz.

I am surprised with this being only the second film that this concept has already run out of steam. Maybe had they picked three new put-upon saps in a revenge-against-The-Man plot, this sequel might have worked. Then again, maybe if they had an actual script... I rate it a 4 out of 10. (T. Durgin)




Reviewed November 20, 2014 / Posted November 26, 2014


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