I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
It’s disconcerting when this happens: My reaction to a sequel is so powerfully diametrically opposite my reaction to its progenitor that it makes me wonder if I entirely misread that first film. (This has happened before.) Horrible Bosses 2 left such a rancid taste in my mouth that it left me reconsidering the fact that I kinda liked Horrible Bosses. Was I wrong back in 2011?
But I rewatched Bosses, and no: It’s a pretty good — not great, but pretty good — black comedy with a little bit of something to say about the desperation of the Great Recession and the indignities we endure in the quest for a reasonable living, and also, for a wonder, how unfun sexual harassment is even if you’re a dude and your lady boss is hot.
So how did we get to No. 2, which wouldn’t be unfairly dubbed, ahem, a “number two”? Probably quite a bit has to do with the fact that director (and one of the screenwriters) Sean Anders had nothing to do with the first movie, though he did make the execrable Sex Drive as well as one of the most reprehensible movies ever, That’s My Boy. This may not descend to quite those cinematic depths of terribleness, but it cannot be an unexpected total misfire from a filmmaker so tone deaf as to think that being raped is a pretty cool thing for a teenage boy.
The weirdest thing about this sequel is that its putative heroes — regular schlubs played by Jason Bateman (Identity Thief, Paul), Charlie Day (The Lego Movie, Pacific Rim), and Jason Sudeikis (We’re the Millers, Epic) — are now the horrible bosses, but the movie seems utterly unaware of this. The guys — who attempted a Strangers on a Train plot to murder their truly horrible bosses last time — are now working for themselves. They’ve invented a device called The Shower Buddy, which apparently squirts out the shampoo for you, or something, and they have gone into business manufacturing it. Day’s Dale is still the harmless galoot he was before, but his pals, who previously were fairly bright and decent (apart from the murder thing), have become complete idiots and jerks. Sudeikis’s Kurt, whom we last saw defending his coworkers from their abusive, insensitive boss, is now the guy hiring women with no work experience solely because they’re hot. Bateman’s Nick used to work in finance, so he should have known better than to agree to a huge, exclusive deal to manufacture their Shower Buddies for a Sharper Image-type company without signing a contract that has been vetted by a lawyer, or three. (Hell, I’m just a writer who always loses at Monopoly, and even I know this.) Perhaps the best thing that can be said about the hostile work environment these jerks have created is that it cannot endure for long with a team of dunces in charge.
The guys — and the film — believe that the horrible boss they are targeting this time is the Sharper Image-esque CEO, Bert Hanson (Christoph Waltz: Muppets Most Wanted, The Zero Theorem), who stiffed them on their deal: they plot to kidnap and hold for ransom his jerk son, Rex (Chris Pine: Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, Star Trek Into Darkness), in order to recoup their investment. Neither of the Hansons qualify as a boss to any of the protagonists, though they are indeed horrible. Except here’s something even more off-putting about this dumb movie: Only the villains here speak any truth. “You think that hard work creates wealth?” Hanson Sr. scoffs. “Wealth creates wealth!” (This is, alas, almost entirely true in our world today. Deplorable, but he’s not wrong. Shouldn’t he be saying something that is terrible but also false, as a way to demonstrate that his view of the world is the misplaced one?) When the guys run to Nick’s former boss, Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey: Margin Call, The Men Who Stare at Goats), now in prison after the events of the first film, for advice on how to deal with being stiffed by the Hansons, he announces, “You’re all fucking morons.” Which is also entirely true.
It’s kind of sad when you find yourself nodding in agreement with the characters we’re supposed to be booing.
Unlike in the first movie, it’s tough to have any sympathy whatsoever for Nick, Kurt, and Dale. Worse still is the complete lack of, you know, comedy in their quest to get back at the Hansons. The movie almost gets into the vicinity of something funny with the sequence that sort of sends up criminal mastermind-ery as typically depicted in Teh Movies, but it relies too much on the aforementioned sudden idiocy of the protagonists combined with the enormous plothole require to ensure that Jennifer Aniston’s (Life of Crime, We’re the Millers) appearance — she returns as Dale’s former sexually harassing sex-addict boss — is more than just a one-scene cameo.
Though considering how Horrible Bosses 2 ultimately turned out, she might have preferred that.