With a global haul in excess of $200 million, Horrible Bosses became the sleeper hit of summer 2011. Though it’s no classic by any means, the film was not without its moments, the unforgettable sight of an overweight, balding Colin Farrell amongst them. It’s not surprising then, that despite the first film’s seemingly decisive conclusion, Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis have all returned for part two. The resulting sequel is a narrow improvement upon its predecessor in many ways but, despite some memorable turns from its new cast additions, it suffers some severe bouts of sequel-itis over the course of its bloated running time.
As the conclusion of the first film saw the bosses of the title vanquished with various levels of severity, Nick, Kurt and Dale have since decided to go into business together, launching an utterly pointless shower application called ‘Shower Buddy’. When a naively-conceived investment deal with Christoph Waltz’s millionaire Burt Hanson goes awry, its not long before the trio fall back on their morally unscrupulous ways, plotting the ‘kidnapping’ of Rex (Chris Pine), Ben’s petulant son. This leads them to inexplicably reconvene with inept non-murderer Motherf*cker Jones (Jamie Foxx), with the plot contorting even further to rope Jennifer Aniston’s sex-addict cum-dentist Julia Harris back into proceedings, while Kevin Spacey also returns for a brief expletive-ridden cameo as the now-jailed Dave Harken.
The film’s few belly laughs largely stem from call-backs to the original’s script, with repetitious scenes and a runtime close to two hours seeing the film wear out its welcome after a promising opening. This promise comes in the form of Chris Pine’s deranged, bedraggled turn . Much like Farrell’s vulgar caricature in part one, Pine clearly relishes the opportunity to break free from his set mould, which bar excursions as Captain Kirk, has been fitted to a bland default since his ascent to A-list status. Witness the bizarre sight of the star of People Like Us repeatedly banging his head off a desk in order to blackmail his kidnappers. In this sense, Rex doesn’t necessarily help alleviate the film’s low joke hit rate, but an actor as oft-neutered as Pine embracing his inner-crazy is always welcome, almost making up for the film’s criminal underuse of Waltz. When Hanson Snr. lectures his son on the dangers of show-boating in the duo’s sole notable scene together, they showcase a serious comedic potency sorely lacking from the film’s messy third act.
And messy it is. A climactic car chase shows off a no doubt inflated budget, and the film’s mean-spirited sense of humour (Sex addiction! Migrant workers! Workplace misogyny!) proves more wearying as we close in on the conclusion. Aniston in particular is short-changed by a character who, thinly conceived first time around, sees her one joke eked out as far as it can be stretched. Indeed, it becomes clear that it’s not just the kidnappers who are making it up as they go.
And yet, it’s somehow not that bad. Aside from Pine, the film’s major saving grace once again proves to be the dynamic between its central trio. Despite their increasingly deplorable behaviour, Day’s manic energy, Sudeikis’ sleaze and Bateman’s eternal Bluth-ness provide all the script asks of them. None of the three push themselves beyond their comfort zones in the slightest, and in this case, that’s not a bad thing, making Horrible Bosses 2 a film that’s almost impossible to admire, but difficult to hate.
Despite some fun performances, one should hope that this will be the last we see of Nick, Kurt and Dale. That said, these things seem to come in threes…