Comedy sequels are tough. If you stray too far from the original premise, you’ll lose the audience. As a result, comedy sequels end up replaying the original story to a fault. A prime example is the second installment of The Hangover, which just tries to be the original but “edgier.” It made a buttload of money, so it’s considered a commercial success, but as a movie, it’s pretty awful. It hits all the same beats as the original, but in Thailand! Ed Helms has sex with a tranny! Some kid we’ve never met before might be dead! Good times, you guys.

That was my concern coming into Horrible Bosses 2. The original was a pretty good comedy about three average white guys who hate their employers so much that they conspire to kill them off, aka the three-way version of Strangers On A Train. The sequel finds Nick (Jason Bateman), Dale (Charlie Day), and Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) trying to live the American dream and create their own business. This time they’re going to be their own bosses! They’re going to treat their employees right!! YEEEEAHHHH! There’s one problem though: they’re morons.

It’s a comedy, so they pretty much have to be inept. The appeal of the Sudayman (oh ahh ahhhhh!) combo is their Three Stooges-style bickering. Sure, the actors are basically playing off of their iconic roles. Dale yells like he’s bashing rats in Paddy’s Pub. Nick tries (and fails) to be the measured voice of reason just like Michael Bluth. It’s what these guys are good at and it works.

The trio gets a prime opportunity to make some money when they meet with Rex Hanson (Chris Pine) and his father Burt (Christoph Waltz) about their simplified showering product, the Shower Buddy. Papa Hanson robs them blind, so the gang has to resort to kidnapping Rex.

Their desperation leads them down the checklist of comedy sequel necessities. Hey, Motherfucker Jones (Jamie Foxx) is back to dole out more illicit advice! There’s David Harken (Kevin Spacey) behind bars to growl at Sudayman! And what would a Horrible Bosses sequel be without horny dentist Julia Harris (Jennifer Aniston) to sexually assault everything in sight? Foxx is one of the funnier presences as the cool oddball putting up with these goofballs. Spacey’s time is limited, but he chews every scene he gets with that famous Frank Underwood menace. Aniston’s return is the least necessary of the bunch, but the former Friend seems to be enjoying the hell out of herself harassing everything and everyone.

The new additions are key to the new film’s plotline, as it’s noted in bylaw 33 of the comedy sequel guidelines. Disappointingly, Christoph Waltz isn’t given a ton to do, which is a shame. The man was a delight as the despicable Hans Landa in Inglourious Basterds. I could probably just watch 90 minutes of Waltz monologuing and eating desserts.

Chris Pine, however, plays a very large part in the movie, becoming the de facto fourth member of the group for a bit. He’s well cast as the spoiled pretty boy son, but it feels like he’s acting in another movie entirely. Pine is so polished with his Captain Kirk charisma next to Sudayman, it’s almost distracting.

Pine’s performance falls in line with the weird tone the Horrible Bosses movies try to balance. The comedy is pretty light, albeit dirty R-rated fare. The plot ends up going to some dark places. The tonal conflict extends to the man investigating the kidnapping (kidnapping!), Detective Hatcher (Jonathan Banks).

Banks is a terrific presence on Community with his lovable grumpiness, but he’s closer to Breaking Bad’s Mike Ehrmantraut here. The serious elements weigh Horrible Bosses 2 down a bit, but not enough to take away from the overall enjoyment.

Horrible Bosses 2 is exactly what you’d expect it to be. If you liked the first one, you’ll probably enjoy the second round. Bateman, Day, and Sudeikis are likeable guys with terrific chemistry. It’s all a bit by-the-numbers, but that’s fine. It does do some things differently than the first movie. It’s not The Hangover Part II.

 

 

zomg spoilerz!

  • The Brady Bunch FMK  bit caught me off guard and made me spit out my gum. Apologies to the theater employee who had to clean that up.
  • The southern accent gag for the kidnapping calls fluctuated for me. I did enjoy Sudeikis’ weird creole voice.
  • The racist company name gag was a biiiiiit of a stretch.
  • I loved the casting of Keegan Michael Key as a cheesy morning show host. Perfect.
  • Nick’s fake sex therapy name reminded me of the one he used on Arrested Development: Cheruth Cutestory. Somehow, this one was actually better.