Horrible Bosses 2 movie review: the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad sequel

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Horrible Bosses 2 red light

It’s not funny, only its villains speak truth, and its putative heroes are now the horrible bosses… though the movie doesn’t seem to realize that.
I’m “biast” (pro): enjoyed the first movie

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.

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Tue, Nov 25, 2014 6:40pm

So basically, most of the film’s humor involves tricking people into having sex or sexually assaulting them when they’re unconscious. Bill Cosby anyone? (and throw in some homophobia, racism and pedophilia as well)

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  rick
Wed, Nov 26, 2014 10:59am

No. How on earth did you gather that from my review?

Tonio Kruger
Tue, Nov 25, 2014 9:43pm


“You think that hard work creates wealth?” Hanson Sr. scoffs. “Wealth creates wealth!”

I’m not quite sure that is true but I can understand why the character in question would want to believe it.

It is certainly a lot harder to get rich through hard work than it used to be.
But I know too many middle-class people who grew up poor to believe that the above statement is true about everybody.

Plus bad guys in real life and fiction tend to believe what they want to believe.

As do many people who are not so bad.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Tonio Kruger
Wed, Nov 26, 2014 11:28am

The US may once have been a meritocracy (for white men; no amount of brains and hard work would get you much of anywhere if you were female or nonwhite). Today, the US has just about the worst levels of income inequality and wealth inequality in the developed world. This is a lefty rant: stodgy boring economists have demonstrated this.

But this is one of the insidious ways They keep us from revolting: by perpetuating the myth that if only we work harder, we’ll get rich. Well, we’ve been working harder: worker productivity is *way* up even as salaries stagnant and more and more of the productivity gains go to the top. But instead of laying the blame where it belongs — on rampant unchecked capitalism that favors corporations and the 1 percent over workers — we blame ourselves. “I’m not working hard enough. I’m doing something wrong. It’s all my fault I’m struggling like this.”


reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Wed, Nov 26, 2014 3:10pm

And even more perniciously, “those people could get themselves out of poverty if only they tried a bit harder, so there’s no need to help them”.

Tonio Kruger
reply to  RogerBW
Wed, Nov 26, 2014 6:38pm

I help such people all the time, Roger.

And I’ve known quite a few people who are either on Social Security or have their rent paid through Section Eight — as well as quite a few people who would like to be on food stamps but don’t qualify despite being very poor.

Ironically, I live in a state — Texas — which has a reputation for being one of the stingiest states in regard to welfare payments and similar government services yet it is constantly attracting residents from out of state because of its reputation for being “a state where all the jobs are.” Frankly, I think its reputation for the latter is more than a bit exaggerated but it seems fairly obvious by all the out-of-state license plates I see that my opinion is in the minority.

Tonio Kruger
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Wed, Nov 26, 2014 6:29pm

I’m not interested in promoting unchecked capitalism. I’m interested in promoting realistic solutions.

And the assumption that I’m necessarily talking about white men when I talk about the formerly poor and the assumption that it is somehow illogical to attempt to learn anything from the experiences of the people I know who have escaped poverty would be hilarious if the long-run philosophic consequences of such assumptions were not so sad.

I am not unaware of the fact that one can work very hard and still have trouble getting ahead or staying even. I am also not unaware of the fact that life has gotten worse for many poor people within the last ten years (Ironically, I know more people who have been laid off or lost their jobs since Obama took office than I ever knew in similar circumstances during the Bush years.)

But I know that any solution to the problems you mention are likely to be long-term and most of the poor people in my neighborhood can’t afford to wait for long-term solutions. For example, I know of one former neighbor who had such a long search for a job that she ended up losing her residence because by the time she found one, she did not have enough savings to cover both her rent and her electric bill — and she was not about to risk her infant son freezing yet so she could pay a few more dollars on her rent. I know of another neighbor who had to pawn half his possessions every month so that he could help his working mother pay the rent — only to end up losing half of those items in a fire.

Anyway, people have been talking about the problems of capitalism for almost as long as you or I have been alive yet I have yet to see any realistic solutions being suggested. If anything, we seem to be going backwards.

And while I can understand your argument that it’s not just enough to say, “Well, they did it,” I don’t think it’s realistic to pretend that there is nothing to learn from the people who have managed to escape poverty.

Besides, most of the people I know who have escaped poverty are either Hispanics or white women. And many of them are friends or relatives — so I’m biast.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Tonio Kruger
Wed, Nov 26, 2014 10:11pm

First off, I don’t think you were promoting unchecked capitalism, and I don’t think your personal examples were necessarily talking about white men. Of course a few people might do okay. Even in the past. But I am talking about today, and the economic environment that is represented in this movie, which is set today.

Life has gotten worse not only for poor people. It has gotten worse for middle-class people, too. There’s barely a middle class left in the US: there are the rich, and there’s everyone else, the vast majority of whom who are either poor or one lost paycheck or illness away from catastrophe.

Also: escaping poverty is not the same thing as “getting rich.”

You haven’t been paying attention if you don’t think there are realistic solutions that will work, and that we KNOW they will work because they’ve worked in the past or they’re working in other nations right now. Strong unions. Anti-monopoly laws. *Much* higher taxes on the wealthy, and on *wealth,* not just on income. A stronger social safety net. Valuing people over profit. Universal single-payer health care.

We *know* the solutions for the problems. We simply don’t have the political will to implement them, partly because too many Americans are too ignorant of why things are so bad, and how things aren’t quite so bad in other countries.