The cast of Horrible Bosses 2 seem like they’re making the best of a lame assignment, and the movie seems like it’d be best enjoyed the same way – in a screen on the back of a headset, on your laptop when you’re laid over in Fort Worth. It’s best to evaluate it against its opportunity costs. I can’t tell you to jump in your car and rush out to see it against so many other attractive possibilities, like napping, or Chik Fil A, but if you’re choosing between Horrible Bosses 2 and, say, a game of Angry Birds, or counting the guy in 28C’s hair plugs, sure, go with Horrible Bosses 2. One thing I can say with great deal of certainty: Horrible Bosses 2 isn’t that bad.
I like Charlie Day. I like Jason Sudeikis. I like Jason Bateman. Charlie Day can make me laugh with nothing more than a weird facial expression, even when he’s only half committed to a half thought-out scene like he and the rest of the gang mostly are here. Whereas 22 Jump Street went all in on making fun its own unnecessary existence (to great results), Horrible Bosses 2 can never quite decide how earnest the plot is supposed to be. The characters sort of just do things that aren’t believable and then make fun of themselves for it. They’re good enough at the making fun part to keep you from getting too hung up on the story, but not quite good enough to trick you into thinking this was anything but a throw-away endeavor. Charlie Day is funny, but he’s not a wizard. It looks like someone filmed a 108-minute game of grabass, but at least the participants seem to be having fun.
I never saw HB1, but there’s a self-defeating dynamic at work here between the three principals. I call it “Dumb and Dumber And Dad,” where Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis’s characters are so over-the-top stupid that they’re like Homer Simpson or the Three Stooges, and then Jason Bateman will come in and try to talk them out of one of their plans as if he’s talking to you or me, and not two guys whose kidnapping scheme involves stealing laughing gas from a horny dentist. I love the Three Stooges, but know what kind of comedy you’re making. If you’re going to go for it, go for it, with all the BONK and SPLAT sound effects and Jason Sudeikis chasing Jennifer Aniston around a table trying to poop on her while Yakety Sax plays. Don’t have Bateman show up in a smart sweater to glibly explain why we shouldn’t poop on each other. The rules of their worlds are constantly at odds – a clever sweater guy and a dancing poop clown can’t both be funny in the same comedic reality.
Oh right, plot summary. So the boys have invented some kind of “shower buddy” contraption based on a car wash (mainly an excuse for a handjob sight gag on live TV) that they refuse to sell to catalog tycoons Chris Pine and his dad Christoph Waltz, who then screw the boys over and steal it. In retaliation, the boys cook up a plan to kidnap Chris Pine, and ransom him to his father. They do so by trying to steal laughing gas from Jennifer Aniston during her sex addicts anonymous meeting, along the way asking for advice from Jamie Foxx, a gangster who can’t negotiate and dreams of owning a Pinkberry, and convict Kevin Spacey, who hates them and yells a lot. Chris Pine has striking blue eyes throughout.
I’m not going to tell you that this is an unfunny movie, because it has its moments. Connoisseurs of frequent mild chuckling will surely chortle themselves into a state of moderate contentment. But none of the comedy is situational. Almost all of it is based on “this one WEIRD guy did something WEIRD, lol!” Even in the Seinfeld episode-within-a-Curb-Your-Enthusiasm episode, when George invents an app, the app sort of makes sense. Believable-enough storylines merge and create funny situations, with one-liners peppered in along the way. In HB2, the boys’ invention doesn’t make sense. Their kidnapping plot doesn’t make sense. Them asking Jamie Foxx or Kevin Spacey for advice doesn’t make sense. But Kevin Spacey yells, lol! Jamie Foxx negotiates poorly, lol! Jennifer Aniston begs to get pooped on, lol! It’s a zero sum game where none of the scenes really build on each other, they’re all basically an excuse for people to stand around while one guy wears a funny hat. These guys look good in funny hats, but still.
I’d like to think we could try a little harder than wacky hijinks bookended by pop music montages (and for the love of God, stop using that How You Like Me Now song), but at the same time, how much can you really expect from a movie called “Horrible Bosses 2.”
Vince Mancini is a writer and comedian living in San Francisco. You can find more of his work on FilmDrunk, the Uproxx network, the Portland Mercury, the East Bay Express, and all over his mom’s refrigerator. Fan FilmDrunk on Facebook, find the latest movie reviews here.