The law of diminishing returns — that inescapable Hollywood force that converted the Hangover franchise from a fresh, original property to a reheated Pop-Tart resting at the bottom of a garbage can — did its work on Horrible Bosses 2, sequel to the genuinely delightful 2011 film. All the principles and much of the comedic engine are still in place, but this journey is very much taken on the same road.
The 400-Word Review: Horrible Bosses 2
By Sean Collier
December 1, 2014
A modern-day Three Stooges, the film reunites Nick (Jason Bateman), Dale (Charlie Day) and Kurt (Jason Sudeikis), this time trying to go into business selling a gimmicky shower head of their own invention. When a smarmy investor (Christoph Waltz) places a career-making order, they rush into production, only to be blindsided: he never signed the deal, so he’ll wait for them to go bankrupt and buy the company in foreclosure.
The solution? No, not murder, that was the first movie. They’ll kidnap the billionaire’s shiftless son (Chris Pine) and set the ransom just high enough to keep control of the company. Cue the awkward caper and jaunty soundtrack!
Horrible Bosses 2 leans quite heavily on the natural charm of its leads. In the original film, their easy, genuine chemistry was gravy over a well-written, quick script; here, it’s the main course. Original director Seth Gordon has been replaced by Sean Anders, more frequently a writer; he also co-writes this film with John Morris, neither of whom were involved with the original. They imitate and never innovate, occasionally crafting funny bits without an engine beneath them. (I’ve found myself comparing Horrible Bosses 2 to another not-quite-there sequel, Dumb and Dumber To, and guess what: Anders has a writing credit on both films.)
And while the cast is great, none appear in the right proportion. There’s not enough Kevin Spacey, too much Jennifer Aniston, not enough Christoph Waltz and too much Jamie Foxx. Chris Pine fits in well, but is a plot device (actually, several plot devices) more than a character.
To a degree, this much nitpicking is me being mean-spirited; the film is not a loser, and I laughed at it. But I truly loved the original and may have preferred to leave it alone than saddle it with a less-than-worthy imitator. Let’s hope the franchise stops here; not to repeatedly beat up on an easy target, but I saw Hangover 3, and I’m afraid of this property sinking any lower.
My Rating: 6/10
Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at pittsburghmagazine.com/afterdark