PLOT When their startup goes belly-up, lovable losers Nick (Bateman), Kurt (Sudeikis) and Dale (Day) plot their revenge on the slick investor who put them out of business (Christoph Waltz), by kidnapping his son (Chris Pine) and demanding a ransom.
First, a little Horrible history: in Seth Gordon’s 2011 comedy Horrible Bosses, working stiffs Bateman, Sudeikis and Day plot, Strangers on a Train-style, to kill each other’s bosses – played by Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston and Colin Farrell (with a comedy comb-over), all of them bigger stars than the leads – with a little help from a low-life criminal named Motherfucker Jones (Jamie Foxx). The hapless trio’s best laid plans went comically awry, largely because none of them ever thinks more than two seconds ahead, but the film was a success, its $200 million worldwide gross virtually guaranteeing the kind of rushed, dismayingly reductive sequel we’ve come to expect from hit comedies (we’re looking at you, Hangover Part 2).
The good news is that Horrible Bosses 2 does at least try harder than the lazy remake-the-first-one-in-a-new-location rule of so many comedy sequels, and brings back most of the things fans of the original liked about it. Familiarity with what are laughingly (and not in a comedy way) called ‘characters’ certainly helps. Nick, Kurt and Dale remain largely undeveloped, but their new role as would-be entrepreneurs essentially makes them each other’s horrible bosses, as they struggle to bring their invention, a soap-dispensing shower head called ‘The Shower Buddy’ (or, if Dale has his way, ‘The Shower Daddy’) to market, with the help of Waltz’s bathroom appliance mogul and his playboy son (Pine). Original horrible bosses Spacey and Aniston get a couple of scenes each, with Aniston’s sex-mad dentist proving even more toe-curlingly profane this time, which scarcely seems possible.
Incoming director Sean Anders, who gifted us Adam Sandler vehicle That’s My Boy, but (in mitigation) also wrote Hot Tub Time Machine, adopts his predecessor’s preference for letting Bateman, Sudeikis and Day improvise most of their dialogue, but keeps a tighter reign on the set-pieces, which are noticeably larger scale than in the first film. For all the ante-upping, however, it’s still Jamie Foxx’s Motherfucker Jones who provides the most memorable moments – unless Jennifer Aniston talking dirty does it for you.
VERDICT Your opinion of this unasked-for but likable comedy sequel depends entirely on whether your reaction to the statement ‘It’s better than the first one’ is (1) ‘Dear God, it could hardly be worse’ or (2) ‘Awesome!’ ★★★