Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Not Like a Boss: "Horrible Bosses 2" coasts on cast to get laughs, then fizzles out

Horrible Bosses 2 (2014) 
108 min., rated R.

A sloppy, funny comedy is one thing, but what about a more-of-the-same sequel with no reason for being? 2011's "Horrible Bosses" wasn't the sicko dark comedy it often teased to be and could have been, but it was a gleefully silly and bawdy wish-fulfillment farce punched up by a likable, comedically skilled cast. What's more, it was made even more memorable for giving Colin Farrell and Jennifer Aniston the opportunity to outrageously mix it up. "Horrible Bosses 2," a sequel existing to skate by on the popularity of the first film, gets another chance to murder good taste in the glory of being a blue R-rated comedy. After it gets a number of laughs in its first half solely from the three leads' delivery of their shtick, the film gradually fizzles out as a feature-length film, ultimately feeling like an uninspired, uncalled-for comedy sequel that, in all good conscience, wasn't really worth the effort. It's hard to sustain laughter when so much common sense is thrown out of the workplace.

After trying to kill their three despicable higher-ups in "Horrible Bosses" and indirectly having success with one murder, Nick (Jason Bateman), Kurt (Jason Sudeikis), and Dale (Charlie Day) are now their own bosses, marketing a prototype for a shampoo-conditioner dispenser called the "Shower Buddy" under their company name, "Nick-Kurt-Dale," that sounds like a racial slur when spoken quickly. When retailing company Boulder Stream gives them a call, they are offered a partnership to distribute their product by the boss' entitled son Rex (Chris Pine), whom they reject, but then comes in head-honcho investor Bert Hanson (Christoph Waltz) who gives them a price they can't refuse. Business seems headed in the right direction before Bert doubles back on them and decides not to launch the "Shower Buddy," leaving Nick, Kurt, and Dale to consult Motherfucker Jones (Jamie Foxx) again and hatch a plan involving the "kidnaping" of Rex. In a twist to their scheme, Rex doesn't mind being kidnapped.

Taking over for Seth Gordon and the three writers, Sean Anders (2012's inane-as-all-get-out "That's My Boy") directs a script he co-wrote with John Morris (2014's "Dumb and Dumber To"). Killing to be equal-opportunity in who it mocks and offends, "Horrible Bosses 2" does come out swinging and keeps the pacing up for a long while but then steadily wears out its welcome and just irritates. As long as one dials their IQ way down, there's a priceless (if obvious) sexual-innuendo sight gag in a shower stall out of the "Austin Powers" movies in the film's opening scene on a live morning talk show with Rachel (Kelly Stables) and Mike (Keegan-Michael Key), à 'la Live! with Kelly and Michael. There's an infectious giggle-inducer involving the three buddies hiding in Rex's closet and getting high off of nitrous oxide, and it is pretty hilarious when they all take a crack at faking exaggerated Southern accents over the phone with Rex's father. Even the trio's "supercool slo-mo walk," already seen in the trailer, is choice. Everything else that doesn't feel off-the-cuff is lame and unknowingly moronic, making the latest "Dumb and Dumber To" look wise by comparison.

Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, and Charlie Day proved the first time around that three heads are better than one, and once again, they more than carry the comedy to the finish line. Bateman is a smart straight-man foil to Sudeikis and Day's dim-and-dimmer bulbs, but at the same time, they all seem to be winging it with weaker material and yammering a lot. Additional support goes to Christoph Waltz, as disgustingly rich Bert Hanson, but while he's thanklessly not given many funny things to do or say, it's Chris Pine who benefits and gets to be the manic live-wire here as cocky, albeit put-upon, son Rex. There's something weird and volatile inside of Pine, who has more going on than a handsome face. As nymphomaniac Dr. Julia Harris, Jennifer Aniston also pops in from time to time, coming back to play and gamely say more dirty things. Her character still exists as a sexually ravenous punchline who excitably drops the word "cock" a lot and, this time, doesn't even mind coprophilia when Nick has to run with being mistaken for a gay sex addict at one of her meetings held in her dentistry office after hours. With Colin Farrell gone, Kevin Spacey relishes to turn up for two brief scenes behind a glass partition in prison as Nick's former horrible boss. Finally, Jamie Foxx, as "murder consultant" Motherfucker Jones who has seemingly never left that same bar booth, doesn't have the surprise he once had, but he reliably sells every moment he can, particularly in a car chase with the long passing of a train, the sharing of a Twizzler, and a cat tree in his truck bed.

108 minutes is a rather long chunk of time for jokes to land and land with a thud, but once the narrative starts focusing on the bland caper at hand and actually envisions a stylish sequence of how the whole kidnapping scheme could go down, it becomes tedious when the sloppy, madcap scheme actually plays out for real. Individual throwaway moments, as do a couple of setups and payoffs, provoke the smiles and laughs they aim for, but it all starts to head downhill. If "Strangers on a Train" and "Throw Momma from the Train" were both name-checked in the first "Horrible Bosses," this one calls out "9 to 5" and makes Bateman the "Jane Fonda" of the trio. So, there's that, and Katy Perry's empowering pop hit "Roar," believe it or not, becomes a plot point. Like the mostly unfunny outtakes, "Horrible Bosses 2" is one big goof, amusing in spots for the audience to watch the ab-libbing troupe hit the mark much of the time and even more amusing for those shooting it. In the end, the cast and the makers win out more than the little people watching.

Grade: C +

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