Predictable, stale and sorely lacking in laughs, Horrible Bosses 2 disappoints on many levels despite its star-studded cast. (4/10)
Comedy is a notoriously difficult genre. Everyone has a different sense of humour and there are many different kinds of humour as well (slapstick, black, stoner, etc.) and to make matters worse jokes and comedy tropes get worn out and tired very quickly these days – ask any of the million dime-a-dozen stand-up acts that come and go each year. Despite all, there can be no excusing Horrible Bosses 2 for what can generously be described a pile of steaming shit. There is really no excuse for this Sean Anders directed disaster – from the writing staff, to the production crew, to the plethora of acting talent, there is absolutely no lack of comedy experience. In fact, even Anders himself has written/co-written numerous comedy films like Hot Tub Time Machine and We’re The Millers, and while the quality of the writing in his previous films is suspect, that’s really no reason for a movie with so much going for it to fall so very flat.
The biggest problem lies with the script. The first Horrible Bosses had its problems, yes, but on the whole it got by because it centred on something that the vast majority of us found relatable – who among us hasn’t had a boss that has driven us up a wall? Take those feelings of frustrations to their logical extreme and you have a great set-up for a rather dark, but nonetheless hilarious, comedy. Horrible Bosses 2 begins with promise – being self-employed, our three stooges are primed and ready to shake off their traumatic ex-bosses spectres and the scene is set for some hijinks once they are cheated out of their (ill-deserved) riches. The trouble is that the script consistently fails to deliver and instead falls back on the tried and tested character tropes that fuelled the laughs in the first movie – gimmicks like Motherfucker Jones (who is in every conceivable way a gimmick rather than a character) and over-exaggeration of each character’s traits. The major issue is that the script tries too hard to deliver the same kind of ‘meta’ self-aware humour that plagued recent Saturday Night Live segments and slightly older movies like We’re The Millers. It can be hilarious when done well, but in this case it feels more like the cast and crew are trying far too hard to force the issue and the end result varies between cringe-worthy and plain uncomfortable.
The acting talent the movie was blessed with, and there was a lot of it, was woefully wasted. This was one of the most star-studded comedic line-ups of the year but it failed to deliver in every way possible. First, you have Charlie Day who insists on using his high-pitched screaming to generate laughs but has nothing else apart that and sheer stupidity to generate funny situations. Then you have Jason Sudeikis who essentially plays a character every bit as mentally challenged as Charlie Day’s Dale but has his sexual appetite as his gimmick of choice to try to force a laugh from the audience. The last of the main trio, Jason Bateman, plays exactly the same character he plays in every single show and movie he stars in. He isn’t playing a character at this point so much as just turning up and saying the lines despite which he was probably the funniest of the three. This lineup could have worked had they tried to be lovably stupid or adorably silly but instead the characters (and a big part of the blame lies with the script) act like they are actually, literally retarded – that is the only possible explanation for some of the decisions the characters make in the movie and once you begin suspecting that the characters are mentally handicapped, their antics become a lot less entertaining. Outside this sorry lot however, there is Jennifer Aniston whose role is to provide some diversity to the sausage fest and that is all she does. Her character is nothing but an over-sexualized woman, objectified in every way possible, a horny teenage boy’s version of what adult women are like. It’s the same role she’s been playing since the first movie but with the reduced screen time her character gets, Aniston is once again reduced to sheer sex appeal. It’s a shame too because, like the rest of the cast, she has a lot of experience in comic roles and could have been the breath of fresh air that this movie needed. Like Aniston, Christoph Waltz is brutally underutilized and seems to be included in the cast mainly so they have can have a ‘serious’ actor in their poster billings. Unlike Aniston though, the movie doesn’t seem to lost anything by reducing his role in it – he didn’t quite fit in with the rest of the cast or with the spirit of the movie. Last but not least, there is Chris Pine who might actually have been the best part of the movie. He is able to balance the emotional with the humorous better than anyone else in the cast and his portrayal of the antagonistic Rex Hanson was in turn hapless, smug and psychotic. That’s quite some range there and there were honestly times during which he was single-handedly keeping the movie going.
All of this is not to say that the movie is completely without merit. After all its many attempts at trying to produce a laugh, the movie does manage to elicit a couple here and there but they are too few and too far apart. The result is that the movie comes across as a predictable rehash of previously used comic tropes forced into a new plot and one gets the sense that the actors feel the same as well, judging from the number of uninspired performances throughout the cast. This isn’t the worst movie of the year but considering what it could have been, it comes fairly close.
Jason Bateman – Nick Hendricks
Jason Sudeikis – Kurt Buckman
Charlie Day – Dale Arbus
Jennifer Aniston – Julia Harris
Jamie Foxx – Motherfucker Jones
Chris Pine – Rex Hanson
Christoph Waltz – Bert Hanson