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‘Horrible Bosses 2’ holds comedy hostage

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Horrible Bosses 2
Written by Sean Anders and John Morris
Directed by Sean Anders
USA, 2014

There’s nothing more depressing than a lazy comedy, and Horrible Bosses 2 suffers from a terminal case of laziness.  Instead of gleefully diving into its richly-black premise, it settles for obvious sight gags and uninspired improvisations.  A talented comedic cast is wasted on material that aims for mediocrity and hits the target over and over again.  There simply aren’t enough laughs here to justify this film’s existence.

This sequel to 2011’s inexplicable hit Horrible Bosses sees our triumvirate of dipshits once again scheming to balance the scales of capitalism.  The laconic moron character, Dale (Charlie Day), wants to sell his great invention, so he enlists his two best chums, the hyperactive moron character, Kurt (Jason Sudeikis), and the exasperated straight-man character, Nick (Jason Bateman), to help him strike at rich.  Sadly, they discover (again) that powerful people like to screw the ‘little man,’ which leaves them no alternative but resorting to felony crimes (again) to get their fair share.

Like all cynical curtain calls, the entire gang is re-united for a triumphant bow.  ‘Motherfucker’ Jones (Jamie Foxx) returns to advise the boys on their criminal escapades, as do Dale’s nymphomaniac boss (Jennifer Aniston) and Nick’s imprisoned boss (Kevin Spacey).  New additions to the cast include, Bert (Christoph Waltz), the bigwig entrepreneur who swindles our trusting heroes, and his conniving son, Rex (Chris Pine).  That every character’s monosyllabic name could be uttered by the average two year-old (with the exception of ‘Motherfucker’ Jones, which would warrant an immediate ‘time out’ situation), tells you something about the limited ambition of this franchise.

This is a black comedy premise masquerading as a farce and it just doesn’t work.  Murder, mayhem and rape don’t lend themselves to zaniness unless you go completely over the top, and Bosses is flailing somewhere in the middle.  Instead of building their gags around the concept of hardened criminals who still believe they’re “average guys,” writer-director Sean Anders and his co-writer, John Morris, settle for lazy jokes about stupid characters getting into stupider situations and escaping through the stupidest contrivances.

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When the filmmakers do try and push boundaries in this otherwise toothless affair, it only comes across as creepy.  Unseemly jokes about canoodling teenage boys, or unconscious hospital patients being molested, feel gratuitous in a story this bland.  Your heart breaks for Jennifer Aniston as she’s reduced to exploiting her sit-com persona for a few cheap laughs.  This movie is perfectly willing to offend you, but only in the dullest, most obvious ways.

The only discernible laughs come from the natural chemistry between the 3 lead actors.  When Day and Sudeikis hyper each other into a frenzy, Bateman uses his impeccable comic timing to diffuse the situation with a quip or an awkward silence.  Bickering about restroom etiquette during a car chase, for instance, is inspired stuff that allows the actors to improvise while still having a clear objective.  Movies like Neighbors or 22 Jump Street thrive because they allow their actors to roam within tightly-controlled boundaries.  For a movie that lacks the necessary structure, however, things quickly devolve into a meandering mess.  We get pointless riffing or self-indulgent montages that feel less like plot development and more like an outtake reel.  Horrible Bosses 2 is crammed full of extended scenes that never reach a satisfying payoff.  In other words… comedic death.

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Making matters worse is that Dale and Kurt are basically the same, irretrievably stupid character.  The only difference between them is that Dale executes his stupidity at a lethargic pace while Kurt spouts his thoughtless non sequiturs at lightning speed.  Apparently, Sudeikis is laboring under the impression this is a black comedy, as his mean-spirited psychopathy clashes heavily with everyone’s good-natured ribbing.  He holds the distinction of being the least likeable character amidst a cluster of tired, unsympathetic lunkheads.  The only character with any propulsive energy, surprisingly, is Chris Pine’s unhinged antagonist.  Pine plays his part with reckless unpredictability, leaving you to wonder what exactly is happening inside his head.  Had Horrible Bosses 2 committed to this unpredictability, or adopted Kurt’s laissez-faire approach to crime, it might have generated some genuinely twisted moments instead of becoming a generic cash grab.

If there is any justice in the world, Horrible Bosses 2 will quickly fade into the cinematic woodwork, fostering no hope for another unnecessary sequel.  These guys need to be locked up in comedy prison with no chance of parole.

— J.R. Kinnard


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