Déjà vu is the planned name of the game in this sequel that once again coasts upon the likeability and camaraderie of its stars.
We all want to kill our managers, employers, or anyone else who exerts authority over us in a work situation, 2011 comedy Horrible Bosses told us, charting the exploits of three affable but clueless pals who tried to do just that. After the passage of three years, apparently now we just want to kidnap those close to the people who have wronged us in business, then hold them for ransom to get our own way, as explores the plot of the aptly-titled Horrible Bosses 2.
Yes, the sensible Nick Hendricks (Jason Bateman, This Is Where I Leave You), cavalier Kurt Buckman (Jason Sudeikis, We’re the Millers) and downtrodden Dale Arbus (Charlie Day, Pacific Rim) are back, older but by no means wiser. Despite their usual bumbling antics, their dreams seem on the cusp of coming true, with the trio branching out – sans overseeing forces – to make and sell an all-in-one bathroom gimmick. An important TV appearance is fumbled in their usual fashion, but an investor, Bert Hanson (Christoph Waltz, The Zero Theorem), is still interested in purchasing 100,000 units. Alas, the happy days of forging their own way come to a halt when Hanson’s offer is revealed as a ruse. Their retaliation: taking his playboy son, Rex (Chris Pine, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit), hostage to recoup their out-of-pocket costs.
Déjà vu is the planned name of the game in Horrible Bosses 2, as new writer/director Sean Anders (That’s My Boy) and co-scribe John Morris (Mr Popper’s Penguins) take on a story conceived with Jonathan M. Goldstein and John Frances Daley (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2) from the original’s creative team. The gags, the gross outs, the scenario, the stereotypes, the convoluted set-ups, the character clichés, the messing around as a missive of struggling modern men and changing standards of manhood: other than a few small twists, we really have been there and seen that, and little has been improved.
To further retain the spirit of the past, other characters from the first feature, including Jennifer Aniston’s (Life of Crime) sexually confident dentist, Kevin Spacey’s (TV’s House of Cards) demeaning bully and Jamie Foxx’s (The Amazing Spider-Man 2: Rise of Electro) smart-talking criminal, all make second appearances, overshadowing newcomers wasted in bit parts such as Jonathan Banks (Community) and Keegan-Michael Key (Let’s Be Cops). Reliving former glories is all that is going on in this comedic retread, though pleasingly with less awkwardness and more assurance this time around.
Thankfully, not every aspect of this clear attempt to repeat what came before is negative, but nor is anything in the movie anything more than average – other than its leads. Similarly keeping with the film’s predecessor, what Horrible Bosses 2 coasts upon is the likeability and camaraderie of its three stars. All at least exceed the farcical material here, even if they once again play watered down versions of their respective Arrested Development, Saturday Night Live and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia personas. In this outing, in an improvement on their last pairing, they wear their thinly drawn protagonists with an added layer of comfort. Watching the comic talents of Bateman, Sudeikis and Day thrown together once more earns giggles and a few guffaws, but that says more about the performers themselves than what they’re working with.
Otherwise, Horrible Bosses 2 remains as unremarkable as many sequels are, retracing the same steps for comparable returns. Helmer Anders does nothing to distinguish the film in its style, either, not just from its origins, but also from every other mid-range comedy pumped out of Hollywood. That the feature fares slightly better than its inspiration is a matter of familiarity and fine-tuning, as well as the addition of a few funnier jokes. If a third film eventuates, perhaps the key troika can discard their screen surrogates to wreak havoc on those that keep putting them in passable but far from palatable, amiable but largely undemanding, by-the-numbers affairs.
Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5
Horrible Bosses 2
Director: Sean Anders
US, 2014, 108 mins
Release date: December 11