Horrible Bosses 2 (dir. Sean Anders)

Posted: December 8, 2014 in Uncategorized

I’m not sure “Horrible Bosses” needed a sequel. That 2011 film was a sometimes funny “Throw Mama from the Train” spin on worker angst that took the easy road when a higher level of satire about Capitalism was just out of reach. Still, I was not against a sequel being made, as perhaps a different plot with these same characters would work better.  “Horrible Bosses 2” turns out to be probably on the same level as its predecessor, as the film substitutes three murder plots with a single kidnapping plot, satire is left largely untouched, and the three leads spend a lot of time talking over each other.

Since the last film, Nick (Jason Bateman), Kurt (Jason Sudeikis), and Dale (Charlie Day) have decided to become entrepreneurs and invented a showerhead that also dispenses shampoo and conditioner.  Not sure how this makes showering easier since you still have to buy shampoo to load into the showerhead, and it really only saves you the trouble of pouring shampoo into your hand and applying it to your head, since you’d still have to lather it yourself, but whatever.  Have you seen Skymall?  People will buy the dumbest shit you can think of.  I believe Marx forewarned of this Commodity Fetishism, and this might have been a good angle for the film to approach a satire of consumerism.  Nope.  The filmmakers have obviously seen “Fight Club”, since this film namechecks that one, but none of the satire rubbed off on it.

After appearing on a morning show to promote their prototype (because morning shows do that?) they get a call to meet with Rex (Chris Pine) who runs a Skymall-like catalogue retailer.  He offers are protagonists a one-time fee to buy their product, outsource manufacturing to China, and reap all of the profits.  The guys, mainly Nick, decide they want the profit for themselves since this was their creation and they worked for it (Marxist satire opportunity #930 missed), and turn down the offer.  That’s when we meet the REAL head of the company, Rex’s dad Burt (Christoph Waltz).  Opportunity to Satirize nepotism and inherited wealth also missed.

In any case, Burt claims he likes the cut of our protagonists’ respective gibs and says he’ll set them up with a loan officer at a bank to front them the money to go into production on their product, with a promise that he’ll buy 100,000 units to sell through his company, which will be exclusive retailer.  Our protagonists are thrilled and agree, seemingly without signing any contracts.  So they get the loan, rent space, hire a staff, build the products and…Burt cancels the order.  He does this so the guys’ won’t be able to pay back the loan, go into default, and then Burt can buy the stock of products and the guys’ patent for it in a liquidation auction for much cheaper than he could buy it from the guys directly.  “Hard work doesn’t create wealth,” he says.  “Wealth creates wealth.”  I guess the screenwriters have read a little Thomas Piketty, but again we have a great launching pad for some great satire.

Sadly, this film isn’t concerned with satirizing Capitalism, Consumerism, Wealth, Outsourcing, or any of the other rich areas it skirts by but never engages.  Nope.  It is more concerned with having MANY scenes of the three protagonists mumbling over each other until a supporting character tells them to shut up.  The film loves showing us how stupid Dale is, how horny Kurt is, how REALLY horny Julia (Jennifer Aniston, who plays this character better than she did in the first one but has a distractingly bad fake tan) is, showing Nick get exacerbated by his two colleagues, and letting Jaime Foxx’s Motherfucker Jones just be absurd.  Some jokes hit there mark, some fall flat, but most of the humor is of the super-fast verbal variety, so jokes than might have landed breeze by, or are talked over by lamer jokes given more volume in the sound mix.  There are no hilarious gutbusters in the film, but there are a few chuckles, and some interesting soundtrack choices.  We also get an Austin Powers-esque sight gag where something looks dirty but isn’t.  Then there’s Chris Pine, who is pretty annoying every moment he’s on screen.  One scene with him that sort of works involves him mistreating his maid, but again Immigration, Racism, and Cheap Labor are not satirized.  Instead, they’re more pointed out so we can get jokes about toothbrushes being rubbed against anuses.

This film was directed by Sean Anders, who directed the underrated “Sex Drive” and has written or co-written some other good comedies like “Hot Tub Time Machine” and “We’re the Millers”.  He also directed an, unseen by me, Adam Sandler movie that bombed.  “Horrible Bosses 2” is certainly competently made and the editing works to the gags advantage.  The issue is more that the film picks the low-hanging fruit of humor when this film, and the franchise, could have been the “Office Space” of the post-2008 era.  I wouldn’t say the film is lazy, exactly, but more that the filmmakers have the ability to make a more biting satire (evident by at least having the issues brought up, albeit shallowly) but decided to play things broad and simple, either to keep in line with the first film or from studio intervention.

If you liked the first “Horrible Bosses”, you’ll probably like the sequel to an equal or slightly lesser extent.  It works well enough for what it is, you just blame it for not being what it could have been. B-

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