“Horrible Bosses” (2011) is not one of those movies that usually warrant a sequel. Like “The Hangover” (2009), it was an unassuming R-rated comedy that surprised everyone by receiving a positive critical response and making a lot of money, over five times its initial budget. In Hollywoodland, that means milking the formula for all it’s worth in the form of franchise installments that never can quite live up to the original. However, while “The Hangover Part II” (2011) rehashed a concept to a sharp drop in comedic effect, “Horrible Bosses 2” (out Nov. 26) changes the variables just enough to result in a hilarious movie that can stand up to the first and, at times, can supersede it.
The movie reunites the bickering trio of Nick Hendricks (Jason Bateman), Dale Arbus (Charlie Day) and Kurt Buckman (Jason Sudeikis). But this time, they’re not being harassed by heinous higher-ups. They’ve quit their jobs and become their own employers, creating the “Shower Buddy,” an all-in-one bathing gadget. In the sidesplitting opening sequence (full of “Austin Powers” gags and a major mispronunciation), they royally screw up during a morning talk show to promote the invention.
The plot gets underway when nefarious investor Burt Hanson (an underused Christoph Waltz back in comfortable villain territory) reneges on a business deal to distribute the friends’ product through his company. To avoid losing everything they have, the group turns to the only option that ever seems to be the best course of action: committing a felony against those whom do them wrong. In this case, it means kidnapping Burt’s smooth-talking son Rex for ransom. He’s played by Chris Pine who, once again, proves his worth as the sick, twisted character (see “Smokin’ Aces” and “Stretch”) and not just as the pretty boy hero. Think Colin Farrell’s Bobby Pellitt, just better looking.
Sean Anders (“Sex Drive,” “That’s My Boy”) replaces Seth Gordon as director in a film with higher stakes, not just for the characters, but for the audience as well. It’s hard to top the hilarity that was mined from the first movie’s concept of killing your pain in the ass boss.
Anders is more than up to the task with a screenplay (co-written with producer John Morris) that drops Nick, Dale and Kurt in increasingly ridiculous situations that spiral out of control at the simplest touch, all spurred on by the tunes of Macklemore’s “Can’t Hold Us,” The Heavy’s “How You Like Me Now?” and Badfinger’s “No Matter What.” Meanwhile, Julio Macat’s cinematography is packed with sunny shots of Los Angeles and eye-popping time lapses.
What works best is the comedic chemistry between the leading actors. Each has honed his own unique shtick over the years. Day is the unpredictable, awkward wild card from “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia;” Sudeikis is a master of delivery from his time spent on “Saturday Night Live” and Bateman is the straight-faced voice of reason from “Arrested Development,” getting laughs for his calm reactions to the sheer stupidity of his partners in crime.
An added bonus is the resurgence of familiar characters like Jennifer Aniston’s sex addict dentist Julia Harris, Dale’s former boss, who thankfully receives more screen time outing, delivering a great speech about an imaginary trophy room of phalluses. Kevin Spacey makes a well-spent cameo as Nick’s former boss, David Harken. While he’s been incarcerated for murder, Dave can still taunt the gang from behind bullet-proof glass, a nasty Frank Underwood scowl on his face. Lastly is Mother-ahem-Jones, crime consultant extraordinaire with strange bargaining skills and an even stranger business ambition.
In a way, the film, particularly its climax, contains an “anti-Ocean’s” message in that it mocks heist movies for their perfect execution and getaways. Car chases and shootouts aren’t so fun when done by a bunch of regular schmoes who have no clue what they’re doing. A lot of ideas are borrowed from the first movie. Nevertheless, each scenario is taken in a wildly different direction, extracting new and genuine humor from each set piece. Even the gag reel is snort out loud funny and not just a throw away filler for when people begin to file out of the theater.
The big question would be is there enough here for a third? If this sequel proves anything, it’s that these guys are incapable of working for anyone (or themselves for that matter). If the movie makes enough at the box office, it’ll prove reason enough for another one. So who could boss them around next? In what way will they break the law? Will our office space heroes ever find steady work? Tune in to the next money-grabbing installment for the answers!