‘Horribly’ Delightful?

The bad boys of the workday are back with a laugh-and-groan sequel


At the risk of suggesting that Horrible Bosses 2 has a compelling reason to exist, it’s worth noting that the movie does function, on one level, as an anti-capitalist revenge fantasy aimed at the 1 percent. Mainly, however, this inane and incredibly tasteless sequel qualifies as an excuse to bring back those hard-working funnymen Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis for another round of amateur-criminal high jinks and semi-improvised vulgarity, jabbing away repeatedly at some elusive comic sweet spot where blatant nastiness and egregious stupidity collide—and very occasionally hitting the mark.

The Seth Gordon-directed Horrible Bosses was a sloppily entertaining action-comedy that ended with sensible Nick (Bateman), lecherous Kurt (Sudeikis) and anxiety-prone Dale (Day) escaping the clutches of their awful employers, even if their planned triple homicide didn’t entirely come off. In the new movie, directed by Sean Anders, our heroes have liberated themselves from their day-job drudgery and formed their own company, centered around a home-ablution aid called the Shower Buddy.

They need a wealthy investor to help them manufacture and distribute their product. Enter Bert Hanson (Christoph Waltz), the smarmy CEO of a retail giant, who offers to bankroll their first 100,000 units, which they happily accept—only to find themselves royally screwed over when Hanson reneges on their deal, determined to put them out of business and then buy up what remains at super-low auction prices.

With no legal recourse, Nick, Kurt and Dale decide to kidnap Hanson’s son, Rex (Chris Pine), and demand a $500,000 ransom. Naturally, their criminal instincts prove no sharper than their business sense, prompting a return visit to the seedy bar where their old friend Dean “M———–” Jones (an endearing Jamie Foxx) gives them advice on how to be disreputable. They also stop by the local prison to get tips from Nick’s former horrible boss—or rather, his still-horrible former boss, happily played once again by Kevin Spacey. Various complications, double crosses and chase sequences ensue. Kidnapping Rex turns out to be more of a handful than anticipated, and Pine’s energetic turn as a billionaire playboy with some serious daddy issues gives the proceedings an unexpected shot of adrenaline.

In the most appalling subplot—the one so unnecessary that it winds up feeling almost essential—our heroes once again find themselves tangling with Dale’s ex-superior, Dr. Julia Harris (Jennifer Aniston, game as ever), a sexually rapacious dentist who has no qualms about drilling anyone in her path. In an extra-kinky twist, the plot requires Nick to join Julia’s sex-addiction support group, although needless to say, she hasn’t reformed a whit.

It’s not only the 12-step recovery process that comes under attack here. Horrible Bosses 2 is an equal-opportunity comic offender, aiming cheerful if halfhearted jabs at Hispanic women, Asian women, women in general, gay men and ethical business practices, all the while insulting every conventional notion of plausibility, common sense and good taste. In the end, the movie reserves most of its abuse for its three top-billed stooges, which gives it a redundancy that might also be called brand consistency. As in the first film, the actors seem to be riffing as much as reciting, their antic verbal and physical energy (modulated by Eric Kissack’s editing) offsetting the absence of visual wit in this grubby, cobbled-together production.

Once more, Bateman plays the sensible, put-upon leader, though Nick’s R-rated shenanigans with Julia allow him to cut loose, getting more action than Sudeikis’ swaggering horndog. The wild card this time is Day, who seems to have imbibed helium in between takes. There are times when you might wish he’d tone it down, but toning it down would probably reduced Horrible Bosses 2 to the level of forgettable mediocrity rather than the memorable, even indelible awfulness to which it cheerfully and sometimes successfully aspires.

Horrible Bosses 2 (R): ★★✩✩

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