By their very nature movie sequels are designed to offer audiences more of the same with the logic being that if something worked once it will of course work again. This laziness is nowhere more apparent than with follow-ups to comedies built around jokes and personalities as opposed to a strong story, and the apathetic greed inherent in that core idea is what leads to unfunny and increasingly painful sequels like Porky’s II: The Next Day, Beverly Hills Cop III, Rush Hour 3 and sweet jesus the stink piles that are The Hangover Parts II and III .
When done right though, a sequel to a successful comedy can recapture that magic and deliver just as many (or more) laughs. Evidence for that argument could include films like A Shot in the Dark, 22 Jump Street and – surprisingly – Horrible Bosses 2.
Nick (Jason Bateman), Dale (Charlie Day) and Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) have reaped the benefits of their adventure from the first film and have become their own bosses. It’s a triumph that they’ve channeled into a new invention set to be manufactured and distributed by their very own small company, but the caveat is that they need a little bit of funding to get them on their way. The help they need comes from local millionaire Bert Hanson (Christoph Waltz) and his son, Rex (Chris Pine), but when the father/son pair screws them over it’s not long before their experienced criminal minds are put to use once again.
You might expect the sequel to pick up with our three once hapless heroes hapless no more and riding high as bosses of their own domains, but instead one thing is made immediately clear. These guys are not boss material, and instead they are this story’s “horrible bosses.” Hard workers? Sure. Guys you’d want to grab a beer with? Obviously. But they really should not be in charge of a damn thing as evidenced by how quickly they mess up their financial futures and once again immerse themselves into the criminal underbelly.
They devise a plan to kidnap Rex, and as expected they prove to be highly deficient for the job at hand. That’s bad for them, but it’s good for the film as it necessitates the return of Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Aniston and Kevin Spacey. All three bring varying degrees of laughs, but it’s franchise newcomer Pine who steals the show. Between this and the recent Stretch he makes a strong case for abandoning his leading man status and taking only crazy-ass supporting roles going forward.
As great as that supporting roster is though it’s the three leads who once again prove just how perfect their combined chemistry is here. Each of them are funny on their own, but together they achieve an immaculately balanced comedic nirvana. Bateman’s mastered the slightly off straight-man routine, Sudeikis is a genius at the incredulously dry delivery and Day has turned shrill panic into an art form. Any of them on their own could get old, but they’re kept in smooth motion here never giving us time to grow tired of their respective shtick.
No one who enjoyed the first film would doubt this cast could deliver again, but co-writer/director Sean Anders probably doesn’t engender that same degree of certainty. His directing resume is something of a mixed bag going from the underrated Sex Drive to the abysmal That’s My Boy, but while he’s one of six credited writers here his past works include She’s Out of My League, Hot Tub Time Machine and We’re the Millers among others. He keeps the laughs and action moving here rarely holding any scene longer than necessary, but he does allow one sequence to hang with excruciating perfection. (You’ll know it when you see it.)
The story hits the expected familiar beats as our incompetent trio dig themselves deeper and deeper into an idiotic criminal conspiracy, but the script deserves credit for not simply recycling the same “let’s kill our bosses” plot. If you think no film would repeat itself that closely I again point you towards those insultingly dumb Hangover sequels.
If you liked or even loved the first film it’s as close as subjective art can get to a guarantee that you will like or love Horrible Bosses 2. The story is familiar yet different enough, the ensemble cast is a comedic powerhouse and if nothing else this is the laugh-filled entertainment we need to keep going as the real world falls apart around us.
The Upside: Bateman, Day and Sudeikis are still funny as hell; story finds fresh beats; Chris Pine should devote all of his time to wacky supporting roles; the Twizzler and train scene; “The only thing that creates wealth is wealth.”
The Downside: The expected “sameness” in some areas
On the Side: This is Aniston’s first sequel, and it’s also her third film with Bateman (The Switch) and Sudeikis (We’re the Millers).