Nick (Jason Bateman), Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) and Dale (Charlie Day) deserve recognition. Some kind of award, perhaps, for mental ineptness. As I sat through Horrible Bosses 2, not once did I think gee, these dudes are smart but really unlucky. Instead, all I thought was these dudes are complete idiots, of the highest, or lowest, kind. Just watch them squabble over trivial matters and throw out pop culture references at the most inappropriate of times. Surely they must have missed kindergarten, or primary school, or any institute of learning that encourages common sense, because only common sense can carry them through a plot such as this.
The plot, mind you, is smart, which came as a surprise to me as I languished under Nick’s, Kurt’s and Dale’s horrid decision-making. Why give them horrid decisions to make? They were funny in the first movie because they were fresh and naive, and the scheme they fell into wove itself around their better understandings and delivered twists and turns that were out of their control. The decisions they made were affected by external developments. It also helped that all their bosses were truly horrible, down to the bone.
Everything in Horrible Bosses 2 is within their control. Really, everything. They are undercut by a sadistic businessman, yes, but only because they allow themselves to be by not using common sense.
I shall set up the plot for you. Nick, Kurt and Dale (I’m calling them The Trio) have learnt from their mistakes made in Horrible Bosses 1 (2011). Or so they would have themselves believe. They don’t want to be underlings no more; they want to be bosses. They want to run the show and make it in America. They have invented ShowerBuddy, or ShowerDaddy, or ShowerPal, a shower head that shampoos your hair as you wash it. Ingenious. An entrepreneur, Burt Hanson (Christoph Waltz), approaches them with an offer to buy the product, oversee manufacture, and places an order for 100,000 units. That’s job done, isn’t it?
The Trio takes a $500,000 loan and sets up shop. Before long the first units are out and ready to be sold (judging by the packaging, their target demographic is preteen girls who want to give Barbie a makeover). In a sly manoeuvre, one that Christoph Waltz can play with an affecting malevolence, Burt pulls out of the deal, leaving The Trio with a $500,000 debt and no product.
That’s the setup. What follows, of course, is a plan to get back the money, restore their livelihoods and, hopefully, trap Burt under some kind of malpractice suit. But these guys’ biggest mistake is thinking they can pull off such a stunt. You remember them from the first movie, how they couldn’t tell when they were being conned by a supposed ex-criminal (Jamie Foxx), or when they thought the specialised gigolo they hired was a professional assassin. These boys are clueless. Give them a crossword puzzle. They’ll be at it for months.
Thrown into the mix is Burt’s son, Rex, played almost brilliantly by Chris Pine as a borderline bipolar heir to the family fortune. Pine steals just about every scene he is in, because he understands, quite rightly, that he’s dealing with three children, and makes a point of it. He turns Rex into a kind of psychotic family member, the kind you love to hate and hate to love, which marries his character perfectly to the inanity of the whole shebang. If you ask me, what he does to The Trio is completely justifiable, without having to justify a thing.
And so it goes. The Trio hobbles from one awkward and implausible situation to another, and ultimately finds themselves in a car, driven by the ex-criminal, carrying a cat stand, being chased by cops. It’s a climax that would have worked so much better if our heroes had practiced a little common sense, because by the time we all get there, we are wondering — no, we are knowing that it all could have been easily avoided (Nick deserves special attention for being the smartest of the three and still finding, time and time again, that he is unable to overpower his two moronic friends).
Oh yes, Kevin Spacey and Jennifer Aniston reprise their roles. Spacey is still hilarious (you know your comedy’s in trouble when your funniest line comes from your least significant character’s blooper). Aniston is still sexually magnetic, but only just. Colin Farrell should also have returned, though if he did, Horrible Bosses 2 would have been a totally different kind of movie, which is not a bad thing.
Best Moment | Nick attending a group therapy session for sex addicts thinking it’s an AA meeting. Jason Bateman would have been perfect if he had been the only character; he made me laugh the most. Instead he is hampered by Day and Sudeikis.
Worst Moment | The “slow-mo” scene. It’s been done before, many times, better too.