Here’s the thing about Horrible Bosses: it’s pretty funny….at first. There’s a lot to love about a film that is basically mean-spirited wish fulfillment about the desire we’ve all had to do awful things to our bosses. Who wouldn’t like that? Try to watch it again lately? It doesn’t hold up, and certainly doesn’t beg for a sequel. But it made $200M and so now we have Horrible Bosses 2, a lame and uninspired follow-up directed by the guy who inflicted That’s My Boy on you a couple of years ago.
Charlie Day, Jason Bateman, and Jason Sudeikis return as Dale, Nick, and Kurt, but they weren’t the funniest part of the first film; the bosses were! That’s the case here, as well, with Jennifer Aniston and Kevin Spacey returning to indulge in the chance to play nasty and depraved, and we love them for it. The plot this time around has the moronic trio deciding to launch their own business, so THEY are now the horrible bosses in question. Well, they aren’t actually bosses until they hire employees, right? Enter Christoph Waltz as a sleazy rich businessman with Chris Pine as his son Rex, who proceeds to cheat the guys out of millions of dollars, ruining their company before it’s even really started. So what do our murderous heroes do in retaliation? Well they can’t plot another murder because that didn’t turn out so well (although they got what they wanted out of it), so instead the guys decide to kidnap Rex for a hefty ransom.
Okay, so it’s a given that the crime would be a total dud and that they’d mess up every single facet of it, but what’s weird is how much the trio have changed. Dale is pretty much the same; still fighting off his oversexed boss Julia (Aniston), but Nick and Kurt are completely different. Nick was the “brains” of the operation last time, certainly smart enough not to fall into the kind of financial trap (he was an economics wiz in the first movie!) that screws them over this time. Kurt is such a creepy womanizer now that it’s hard to like him at all. The only thing that gets them by is the easy chemistry between the three actors; they are genuinely fun to watch together because it seems like so much of the best gags are unscripted. That’s a good thing because the actual screenplay by John Morris and Sean Anders (the aforementioned That’s My Boy director) is underwhelming at best. To be fair, Anders also directed Sex Drive which is vastly underrated, but he doesn’t seem to “get” Horrible Bosses and never makes good use of the concept or the cast. This time around we’re meant to hate the slick corporate CEOs, the ones who get $50M golden parachutes to reward their failures and get rich on the backs of working stiffs. That’s all fine, but the problem is that the bad guys aren’t completely heinous here, at least not in comparison to three guys who can now add kidnapping to their growing criminal resume. In fact, it’s Spacey’s imprisoned character who sums up our heroes (and the film) perfectly when he says “You’re all fucking morons”.
While Aniston, Spacey, and the returning Jamie Foxx as “Motherfucker” Jones are great, they are firmly in the background this time and not key to the plot, which is a huge mistake. Waltz, who we can all admit is one of the best actors working today when it comes to playing villains, doesn’t make any kind of impression. On the flip side, the generally-bland Chris Pine has maybe found his calling in roles that allow him to get a little crazy. Horrible Bosses 2 has a few moments, but it’s hard to escape the feeling that this film simply didn’t need to happen, and there aren’t enough laughs to justify its existence.