By Bob Garver
Dec. 8, 2014. 2011’s “Horrible Bosses” was a solid, funny movie. The thing I remember most about seeing it is that there was a huge guy in the seat in front of me who bounced back and forth wildly any time something funny happened onscreen, which was admirably often. The theatre was too dark and crowded for me to change seats, so I just put up with the constant whacking to my kneecaps. In spite of the minor physical pain, I enjoyed the experience very much. I saw “Horrible Bosses 2” without anybody in front of me. At no point did I hurt my knees or any other part of my body. I did not enjoy the experience very much.
Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis are back as the trio of schlubs who resort to extreme measures when somebody more powerful than them tries to make their lives miserable. In the first film, they were up against three distinct, interesting villains. In this film, they’re mostly up against a stiff corporate stereotype (Christoph Waltz) and his spoiled son (Chris Pine). I think the logic in casting Waltz was that he plays villains so well that he can do the work of three. He does what he can to make the performance memorable, but there’s just not much he can do with the character.
The team’s plan is to kidnap Pine so Waltz will pay a ransom that will save their startup business, which he’s trying to bankrupt. Waltz wears a necktie and they even fail at kidnapping that. You can probably imagine that their plan to kidnap the scheming, able-bodied human is not going to go well. But at least Pine manages to be quite the scene-stealer as the bossy “victim.”
The film desperately tries to recapture what worked about the first film. The plot is similar, which is boring and predictable. The humor is similar, which is unproductive and grating. When all else fails, the film tries to make the cast similar. The film finds a way to wedge back Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx, and award-winning Jennifer Aniston. Okay, it was only an MTV Movie Award, but I say it counts. It’s not that these highly-promoted returns aren’t funny (as a matter of fact, I found them a welcome break from the bumbling of our heroes), but it’s clear that the plot doesn’t have room for them.
The humor is lifeless. This is a movie where you’re supposed to think it’s funny when a character writes on a dry erase board and then finds out he’s been writing with a permanent marker. Most of the gags revolve around the characters making mistakes. In the first movie, they were making mistakes that made them unfit to be master criminals. In this movie, they make mistakes that make them unfit to survive in polite society.
The stupidity is turned way, way up in search of cheap laughs. The three main actors clearly were inspired by The Three Stooges, which might work if they weren’t blatantly trying to copy the Stooges’ dynamic, especially with Bateman trying to emulate the self-proclaimed smart one Moe (though they are funnier than that “actual” Three Stooges movie from a few years back). There are also a lot of asides where the characters get in rambling arguments that hold up the plot. Come on guys, you’ve got a kidnapping to botch. I’m not excited at the prospect of the characters succeeding. I’m excited at the prospect of the movie being over.
Don’t worry, I won’t make the obvious joke that “Horrible Bosses 2” is less fun than getting hit repeatedly in the kneecaps. It would be hacky and on par with this film’s uncreative script. Besides, there are a few funny moments in this film, maybe more than I’ve made it seem. All I’m saying is that “Horrible Bosses 2” is pretty painful on one level, so it’s best that it isn’t painful on another.
Two stars out of five.
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