Review: ‘Horrible Bosses 2’ Owes Everything to Strong Cast Chemistry, Not Recycled Plot

By November 25, 2014
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The boys are back, baby! And even narrowly avoiding prosecution for murder hasn’t dampened their zest for bad decisions and a lax appreciation for the letter of the law. Horrible Bosses 2 picks up where the first film left off – eh, relatively – imagining that best buds Nick Hendricks (Jason Bateman), Kurt Buckman (Jason Sudeikis), and Dale Arbus (Charlie Day) have ever-so-tentatively busted out of their corporate shackles to strike out on their own. The trio has formed their own (spectacularly poorly named) company to serve as a home for their Sky Mall-ready inventions, which are, so far, as terrible as the moniker “Nick&Kurt&Dale.” In fact, they’ve only got one invention in their back pocket, the Shower Buddy (“Shower Daddy!,” Day’s Dale screams somewhere), and although the juiced up spigot sounds stupid as all get-out, it’s garnered a fair amount of attention for the dudes.

Finally, it seems, they will get their dearest wish, and get to be their very own bosses. Some people just never learn.

Much like the film’s predecessor, the plot of Horrible Bosses 2 is needlessly convoluted, kitted out with unnecessary supporting characters and bizarre deviations into unimportant subplots. Few comedies need to stretch past the hundred-minute mark, and Horrible Bosses 2 is a fine advocate for slimmer runtimes for sillier pictures. Horrible Bosses 2 runs 108 minutes, and you feel every single one of those seconds tick by.

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Nick, Kurt, and Dale’s brilliant (read: not) invention may have set them on the path to success and entrepreneurship, but that path will not be smooth. After an appearance on a dumb bunny morning show (featuring an excellent supporting turn from Keegan-Michael Key), the dudes draw the eyes of Rex Hanson (Chris Pine) the apparent heir (not the heir apparent, as that will soon become clear) of a chi-chi mail order business that is desperate to buy the Shower Buddy (Daddy?) and make the guys rich. His offer is generous, but it conflicts directly with their dream to be their own bosses, so they pass. Fortunately, Rex’s dad Bert (Christoph Waltz, the real head of the company) admires their pluck and offers to be their exclusive supplier, kicking off the relationship with a generous first order.

Everything is coming up Nick&Kurt&Dale! Except, well, it’s not, and when the randomly nefarious Bert cancels their order, ensuring their financial ruin, the guys plan some criminal hijinks to get their revenge. Sounds familiar, right? Nick and Kurt and Dale might have learned a few things from their previous adventures, and though they’re not above considering murder as a viable option, they eventually go in for kidnapping – stealing Rex to get cash from his dad, who remains a randomly evil specter for the rest of the feature.

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Bateman, Sudeikis, and Day still exhibit uncanny comedic chemistry – these dudes are just funny together, even with lackluster material – and things only get zingier and more amusing once Pine pushes his way into the fold and the threesome balloons out into a giddy, wacky foursome of surprisingly comparable comedic talents. The best part of the original Horrible Bosses was undoubtedly the full throttle performance exhibited by all three leads – comedy duos may be a dime a dozen, but trios are far harder to pull off, just ask the Stooges – and Bateman, Sudeikis, and Day are dead funny together. Perhaps revisiting those exact roles was a mistake, though, as all three struggle to make their previous parts big and broader, with limited results. Bateman is saddled with a bizarre (and not altogether unfamiliar) love interest, while Sudeikis seems hell-bent on out-screaming Day (a dead man’s quest, no matter how you slice it). Things are at their best when the trio simply interacts with each other, hatching idiotic plans and yelling moronic lines back and forth at each other. The more tricky plot movements, the more needlessly complicated the plans, and all of that gets in the way of what should be a fun, frisky feature.

There’s a better movie buried in here somewhere – deep, deep down – and a long-form fantasy sequence sprung from the boys’ brains gives us a little look at what another feature, one better suited to their talents, could look like. Why couldn’t Horrible Bosses 2 have been, well, not Horrible Bosses 2, but some other feature that reunited the talents of Bateman, Sudeikis, and Day and plunked them into a fresh setting? Why waste their charms on a retread of a movie that wasn’t particularly great – or, hell, even particularly horrible – to begin with? Let’s find these guys a new job and be done with it.

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Kate Erbland
Kate Erbland is a staff writer for movie news and reviews at GeekNation. Her work can also be found at Film School Rejects, ScreenCrush, Vanity Fair, The Dissolve, Cosmopolitan, Bustle, amNewYork, New York Daily News, Dame Magazine, Mental Floss, Film.com, MSN Movies, and Boxoffice Magazine. She lives in New York City with two cats, two turtles, one boyfriend, and a frightening number of sensible canvas totes.