Horrible Bosses didn’t need a sequel. While the blockbuster comedy proved quite enjoyable back in 2011 thanks to its ensemble cast of would-be criminals Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, and Jason Sudeikis, the storyline ended just fine. It was a sordid tale that turned surprisingly charming by the time the credits rolled. But Hollywood has its ways, and given that the film currently remains the highest-grossing black comedy to date, nabbing over $200 million worldwide, well, here we are.
And here isn’t too shabby. Gone are director Seth Gordon and writer Michael Markowitz. In their stead are Sean Anders and, um, John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein, and John Morris, respectively. The principal cast, however, remains the same, bringing back Jamie Foxx and previous horribles Kevin Spacey and Jennifer Aniston. There’s also an injection of some fresh blood with Chris Pine (Star Trek) and Quentin Tarantino’s bad boy Christoph Waltz.
To the writers’ credit, the sequel does try to shake things up. Nick Hendricks (Bateman), Dale Arbus (Day), and Kurt Buckman (Sudeikis) have finally caught a break in life by manufacturing a shower contraption that could make them billions of dollars — but more importantly, it could make them their own bosses, too. Unfortunately, a savvy investor (Waltz) lures them in, squashing their futures indefinitely. In an effort to save face, the unlikely trio resort to kidnapping his son (Pine) for ransom.
In light of this month’s historically atrocious comedy sequel Dumb and Dumber To (which, shockingly, also involved Anders), Horrible Bosses 2 is actually refreshing. It’s not nearly as smart as Christopher Miller and Phil Lord’s 22 Jump Street, but that’s because it’s a different brand of comedy. This is pure escapist fantasy for adult males, and it’s fairly self-aware in that respect, poking fun at its own caper plot by capitalizing on each of its character’s flaws.
Yet there’s something rewarding about seeing Bateman, Day, and Sudeikis working together on-screen again. It’s almost like a dream team of TV comedy, featuring a riskier Michael Bluth, a more leveled Charlie Kelly, and an expanded palette of Sudeikis’ trademark everyman from his glory days at SNL. The surrounding cast also parodies their star qualities, whether it’s Spacey’s manic insults, Foxx’s tough guy persona, or Aniston’s sex appeal.
One of the key differences this time is Pine. Unlike the underused and nearly forgotten Waltz, Pine revels in his role as Rex Hanson, the billion dollar sociopath whose outside charm becomes incredibly eerie as the film edges forward. Think: Tyler Durden meets Jake Gyllenhaal out of Nightcrawler. It’s not exactly a transformative role, but it’s certainly an intriguing addition to his curious track record (which was recently given a proper study by Grantland’s Sean Fennessy). Can someone give this guy a chance?
Another reunion here is composer Christopher Lennertz working once again with Stefan Lessard and Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready. This addition might seem frivolous for a comedy these days, but the three assist in keeping things bouncy while also reining in the tension no matter how over-the-top it may seem on-screen. When paired alongside The Heavy’s “How You Like Me Now?” — the de facto theme song for this series — the seams don’t show at all. It’s pretty rockin’, actually.
Not all of the film is kosher, though. Several bits fall flat — a running gag using Katy Perry’s “Roar” feels phoned in (literally), while an opening segment on a morning talk show was done better by Austin Powers — but it doesn’t matter because the scenarios the three find themselves in are secondary to their reactions. The entertainment is watching them think, fumble, stumble, and win. It’s what made the original such a success, and it’s what makes this sequel at the very least acceptable.
Really, the only horrible thing about this would be a third one.