In a sea of sequels, prequels, and remakes, we have Horrible Bosses 2, a title so drab and prosaic, it almost seems to acknowledge its own lack of necessity. The decline in quality here isn’t quite as dramatic as in The Hangover series. However, like the Hangover films, Horrible Bosses 2 is similarly redundant in terms of its humor and structure, and offer nothing new to audiences.

The gimmick this time is that Nick (Jason Bateman), Dale (Charlie Day) and Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) are starting their own business to get away from their (wait for it) horrible bosses, despite the fact that all of these threads were tied up in the last movie. This time their shady investor Burt (Christoph Waltz) is the one in need of handling, so they decide to kidnap his awful son Rex (Chris Pine). Hilarity is sure to ensue. It only kinda does. The last Horrible Bosses film worked so well because it was unconcerned with looking bad. It played up offensive tropes and stereotypes; often its jokes were just mean-spirited. It didn’t do this to garner attention, but because that was just the type of humor writers Michael Markowitz, John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein (none of whom returned for this sequel) wanted to use. It played well in the movie, and was a real pleasant surprise. It was an actual comedy for adults!

Regardless of intent, the film drew a great deal of ire from special interest groups, and in making Horrible Bosses 2Sean Anders and John Morris produced a screenplay that was slavish to the original, and merely turned the volume up on the vulgarity either because sequels are always supposed to be bigger or because it was hoped this would again rile the special interest groups (spoiler: it did) and help word of mouth (spoiler: it kinda did). I laughed more or less when I was supposed to, and once in a while those laughs were heavy and earned, but for the most part, especially when compared to the first, at no point did I consider this movie memorable or anything other than average.

In order to keep reminding us of the original, both Jamie Foxx and Jennifer Aniston return for bit roles here, and are a pleasant (if redundant) addition to the proceedings. Newcomers, Waltz and Pine play smug ably and convincingly, but they don’t have the predator force of Kevin Spacey‘s David Harken or the eye-rolling over the top frat boy bro of Colin Farrell‘s Bobby, traits that made both characters so much fun in the original. Of course, Spacey returns in a cross between a shoehorn and a magic reset button. Spacey, being the professional that he is, does the most he can with what little quality of writing given to him and only succeeds as much as the movie itself does – it doesn’t quite make us laugh as it makes us want to watch the original again.

The framework of Horrible Bosses 2 sticks so close to the original that you could probably play both at the same time and find they sync up almost perfectly. Jamie Foxx enters the plot at around the same time as before (and with similar camera work), there is a sudden murder in roughly the same place as the last one, there is another bait and switch, more lying to the police, and another ending shootout where the boys get off with a shrug and a slap of the wrist. Unfortunately, due to the conceit of the concept, Nick, Dale and Kurt are forced to come off as stupider than before so more jokes and accidents can unfold. In these moments, the film seems less like a sequel and more of a remake just with the same cast and severe Pinkberry product placement.

Aniston steals the film as she did in the last one. Her Julia is such a non-Aniston character that it becomes clear that she has as much fun playing the role as we have watching her. The appearance here is as shoehorned as Spacey’s but the entire film is unnecessary, though she is enough to get us to forget that fact for the duration of her screen time and go with it long enough to have fun with it.

I know it sounds like I’m tearing this movie apart, but it really isn’t all that bad. It’s nice to have another film that pushes back against the PC norms set upon us in this day and age, and I would probably have given this a better grade if it was a standalone story rather than a sequel that is really just a clone of the original.

There are minor points left that seem to nudge the viewer into thinking there might be yet another sequel on the horizon since apparently we’ve learned nothing from The Hangover or Taken. Perhaps in Horrible Bosses 3, the gang will try to overthrow the entire US government, considering how things escalate in sequels and how the plots progressively get worse with each new addition.

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