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Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014 12:01 am

Bosses 2 a surprising improvement

Charlie Day, Jason Bateman and Jason Sudeikis in Horrible Bosses 2.
PHOTO COURTESY WARNER BROS. PICTURES

 

Though superhero films are doing their best to disprove this notion, it’s generally accepted that sequels are usually not as good as the movie that preceded them. I would argue that comedy sequels have an even harder time as so much of the lunacy that seemed fresh and surprising in the first entry of a series often comes off as labored and predictable the second time around. (See The Hangover trilogy for a dismal example of this.) All of this is what makes Sean Anders’ Horrible Bosses 2 such a pleasant surprise. It manages to up the ante by placing its three principal characters in an intriguing, ever-evolving scheme that provides fresh dilemmas for them to make worse to great comic effect.

Having barely escaped doing jail time for trying to kill their bosses, Nick, Kurt and Dale (Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day) have decided to try on the shoe that’s always been on someone else’s foot. They’re determined to become their own boss and they actually have a chance to make this happen. Inspired by a car wash gizmo, the ambitious trio has invented a device called the “Shower Buddy,” which they think will have mass appeal. They’re not the only ones as they’re approached by Bert Hanson (Christoph Waltz) and his son Rex (Chris Pine), owners of a massive distribution chain who want to help the boys manufacture, sell and distribute their invention. It all seems too good to be true – and it is, as the Hansons maneuver to take the rights to the product and the units already produced, all through shady, yet legal means. Nick, Kurt and Dale are left with a debt of $500,000 and no way to pay it back. So, they do what any desperate person would do – they decide to kidnap Rex and demand a hefty ransom for his safe return from his father.

Light comedy and clever turns of phrases are an anathema here. As written by Anders, this is a dirty, crude piece of work that sneers at the notion of good taste. One of the opening scenes features a tasteless but inventive sight gag that you can’t help but chuckle at, thanks to Sudeikis and Day’s enthusiastic efforts, while a word play on the trio’s names is unexpectedly clever and funny. With these, Anders lets you know early on that there are few depths he and his crew won’t sink to in order to deliver laughs. It’s only through the complete commitment of the cast that the film and its ribald content work. This is never more evident than in the brief scenes featuring Jennifer Aniston who returns as Julia, the nymphomaniac dentist who inexplicably pursued Dale in the first film. There’s a twinkle in the actresses’ eye as she describes the foul things her character is willing to do and it’s her attitude alone that makes Julia an effective comic creation as opposed to a reprehensible figure.

Kevin Spacey and Jamie Foxx recreate their roles from the first film as well (Colin Farrell is the only actor missing from the original) and that they only have a few scenes ensures that they don’t wear out their welcome. They effectively punch up a moment here and there, deliver a laugh or two and are on their way. Pine is a worthy addition to the lunacy, going all in as a spoiled little rich boy who has a screw or two loose, meaning he’s a perfect fit for the three bozos in the center of the film. Meanwhile, Waltz does his best to convince that he’s not slumming for a paycheck and he nearly pulls it off. However, he never conveys the sense of fun the rest of the cast has and his aloof manner suggests he was never fully attuned to the tone of the movie.

There are some effective twists and turns to the plot that keep us on our toes which provide fresh comic fodder for the three leads to sink their teeth into. The dynamic of Nick being laid low again and again by Kurt and Dale is very effective as Bateman provides a solid center as the straight man around which Sudeikis and Day’s lunacy whirls. Though it threatens to be a bit too manic at times, the laughs they generate are genuine and consistent. While Horrible Bosses 2 will never be mentioned in the same breath as The Godfather, Part II as a groundbreaking sequel, it’s successful enough to make me willing to sit through another chapter, provided Anders’ sure hand is at the wheel.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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