“I think we really hit our stride with kidnapping,” Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) comments to Dale (Charlie Day) about halfway through Horrible Bosses 2. The observation definitely doesn’t reflect what’s going on in the film—the trio of irreverent goofballs Kurt, Nick and Dale are just as terrible at crime in this movie as they were in the first—but does seem to sum up what Horrible Bosses 2, as a movie achieves.
For Day, Sudeikis and Jason Bateman, Horrible Bosses 2 is a raucous showcase of comedic chemistry. The film picks up where the first left off, with Kurt, Nick and Dale—formerly under the thumb of tyrannical and semi-psychotic supervisors—going into business for themselves. Predictably things devolve fairly quickly and the three find themselves thrust back into a life of ill-conceived law-breaking.
The plot is hardly the point here, and the film seems to be conscious of that fact. What’s prioritized in Horrible Bosses 2 is the rapport between the lead trio, a more understated version of what most millennial bro comedies reach for and what some (Superbad, Pineapple Express) accomplished well.
While the reprisal of their roles from the first film translate easily for the three protagonists, the film falls short when it formulates the same archetypes with secondary characters. Jennifer Anniston as the nymphomaniac dentist isn’t patently unfunny, but it feels tired; Jamie Foxx as a Miyagi-esque criminal with an unpredictable side is similarly fatigued. Where the movie lacks in originality, it makes up for in performance. Chris Pine as Rex Hanson particularly stands out; a volatile, sociopathic narcissist, one might almost place Pine in the wake of Colin Farrell’s character, Bobby Pellit, from the first movie—except Pine is ten times funnier and weirdly likable despite his psychosis.
The sequel’s hyper self-awareness takes the pressure off; it’s made clear from the get-go that the film is essentially intended as a reboot of the original. Its laziness is almost endearing in a meta sort of away, as gags in Horrible Bosses 2 are directly plagiarized from its predecessor. Day, Sudeikis and Bateman are undeniably funny; the antics almost exist outside of the movie, as if for their own personal amusement rather than for the entertainment of the audience—and it works. The humor is looser, the jokes feel easy, and the film is more enjoyable for it.
Horrible Bosses 2 isn’t likely to stand the test of comedy time, and it may be shuffled into the Rolodex of funny but forgettable sequels that Hollywood churns out year after year. But for me, it was two hours and 10 dollars well spent.