The first ‘Horrible Bosses’ proved to be quite the surprise sleeper hit in the midst of summer 2011. Wildly funny mostly due to the electric chemistry between Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, and Jason Sudeikis, it was only a matter of time before we got a follow up. However, there’s certainly reason for caution, as the fairly similar ‘Hangover’ franchise faltered in the public eye for sticking too close to the original formula in one sequel, and then straying too far in the next. In other words, the filmmakers here find themselves in a very tricky position…
The story picks up with Nick, Kurt, and Dale (Bateman, Day, and Sudeikis respectively) as they try to break out of being cogs in the cooperate machine by inventing a nifty shower device. At first, things seem to be going great, with Bert Hanson (Christoph Waltz), one of the most wealthy catalog owners making a hefty deal with them. However, it seems as though it’s all for nothing, as he eventually reveals that the deal was a swindle to cheat the boys out of the company entirely. Outraged, they strike up a plan to kidnap Bert’s son Rex (Chris Pine) to take back the money they lost and thensome, but unexpectedly find that Rex is perhaps more willing to cooperate with them than they thought, as he wants to screw over his father even more than they do.
The greatest success of this film is just how well it manages to reclaim the spirit of the original. For one, the entire cast scores big. The highlight of course is our three leads, who in their argumentative, rapid fire delivery style have essentially created a modern day version of ‘The Three Stooges’, and it totally works. Some of the best moments here are just the three of them firing words at each other. As for the newcomers, Waltz is always fun (even if he is getting a little typecast at this point) as the sneering villain, and Pine finally gets to stretch the fantastic comedic muscles I always knew he had, clearly having a ball as the prissy, self abasing, and yet still snidely charming Rex. Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston, and Jamie Foxx also reprise their roles here, and none of them miss a step.
The plot here does a wonderful job of striking a balance between being similar enough to the first film to retain the comedy, while still feeling fresh and different. There’s quite a few more big comedic set-pieces here, and most of them are rather quick witted and engaging. Not every single joke hits, but even when they don’t, everything is still consistently fun with enough interesting little twists to keep things moving along. Director Sean Anders greatly improves from his previous work (That’s My Boy) here, showing a solid command of both the cast, and the action.
The only major problem here, one that strikes many comedies of this type, is that every so often the pace sags, and a joke just won’t end. They’ll hit the peak of the punchline, and then keep going and going and going. It’s fairly well managed here, but there do come those little five minute stretches every so often where there is just nothing working. Also, while I personally found no problem with it, some people may find themselves a little offended by the way the film portrays rape (once again involving Anniston, and Day’s characters). It’s very lighthearted, and I personally didn’t find it to be any worse than the first film, but many seem to have a issue with it, so it’s worth mentioning.
Honestly, this was about as good of a sequel to ‘Horrible Bosses’ as I could have envisioned. It’s not quite as funny, suffering from slightly staler humor and less rapid pacing, but if you like these characters and want to see them go on another enjoyable romp, this should satisfy. It’s goofy, turn your brain off entertainment, and as that, it does a pretty damn good job. Now bring on the third one where Nick, Dale, and Kurt are the ‘Horrible Bosses’, that’s the one we all want.