Horrible Bosses was a comedy with a dark premise. Here were three guys so fed up with their awful bosses that they hatched a plan to kill all of them. As it turned out, however, the film wasn’t actually very dark. It didn’t have the gumption to follow through with the premise, and ended up mainly relying on the charismatic three leads to provide much of the appeal. Horrible Bosses 2 does much of the same, and this time the schtick is wearing thin. While the film still gets a lot of mileage from just these three guys riffing, there just seems to be even less of a point to all this now.
Since the last movie, Nick, Kurt, and Dale (Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day) have all quit their jobs to start their own company. Unfortunately, thanks to the efforts of unscrupulous businessman Bert Hanson (Christoph Waltz), they quickly find themselves going under. Desperate, the three hatch a plan to kidnap Bert’s son Rex (Chris Pine), but that doesn’t go very well either. But it turns out that Rex is more than willing to be kidnapped, and in fact forces the three to go through with their plan.
Whereas Horrible Bosses mainly sought to depict these characters as inept at any sort of criminal behavior, this sequel seems to make them more out to be completely incompetent as people. In its pursuit of bigger laughs, the movie doubles down on the buffoonery. Whereas once these were three really competent employees driven to insane behavior by their bosses, these are now three morons incapable of making a right choice. It becomes a problem pretty quickly, as it soon makes it difficult to still root for these characters.
The film is still funny every now and then, though that seems to be more from the constant riffing of the three leads rather than anything that’s actually written. Like so many comedies these days, all of the jokes are in the banter, and as is revealed in the end credits sequence, much of this seems to have improvised. Director Sean Anders keeps things moving fairly briskly, but doesn’t do much visually to enhance the comedy. The few bits where the director flexes his visual muscles are the ones that aren’t funny at all.
Once again it falls to the actors to keep things watchable. And while Bateman, Sudeikis and Day have an easy chemistry between them, their constant jabbing gets tiresome after a bit. The tone has changed a bit, the film feeling just a tad meaner than it was before. The friendly ribbing just doesn’t feel as friendly, and it cuts into the enjoyment of their interactions. Chris Pine provides a welcome burst of energy as their sociopath victim/mastermind. Kevin Spacey and Jennifer Aniston reprise their roles from the first film, and it feels a bit below their station.
Horrible Bosses 2 should have really escalated the premise. The most interesting in this film has the characters being told that they are in fact criminals, and that they need to start acting like it. But that idea goes nowhere as the film throws it away for a dumb slow motion walk gag. The more interesting version of this film risks these characters getting away with something really terrible, and mining the dark comedy of these ordinary people confronted with the consequences of their actions. But this film doesn’t really want to risk anything. It rehashes what went on before, to weaker effect.