The Horrible Bosses series traffics in the same brand of comedy that we've all gotten used to by now: that in which straight, white men wreak havoc and get away with it scot-free. There's a liberation to be found in that—The Hangover won audiences over through its clever structure and a otherworldly performance by Zach Galifianakis. But that lightning already struck once, and Hollywood has been trying to make it happen again over the past five years. But Horrible Bosses (both the original and now the sequel) have even lower lows than The Hangover because not only do the aforementioned men blithely get away with the destruction they cause, but it is also at the cost of the dignity of practically everyone around them. This is comedy of cruelty at its worst.
Take, for example, Julia (Jennifer Aniston), the sex-addicted dentist former boss of Dale (Charlie Day), whom the trio blackmailed at the end of the first film into silence about their crimes. She is a domineering, crass vixen from whom anyone in real life would run away, a woman who rapes her patients and practically any man—straight or gay, the movie would have you believe—that crosses her path. What does the movie think about her? It thinks she's hot. You'd like to believe that Kurt's (Jason Sudeikis) complete infatuation with her is due to his own obsession with sex, but take one look at the way Julia is portrayed and you'll know where the director's sympathies lie.
That could be because Sean Anders took the director's chair for this one. He's no stranger to inept and offensive comedy, having written Dumb and Dumber To and directed the execrable Adam Sandler debacle That's My Boy. He has an even looser rein on the leads this time around, giving Day, Sudeikis, and Jason Bateman plenty of room to improvise their dialogue, most of which comes off as either irritating or baffling. Furthermore, a lot of the chatter overlaps, causing not just a few jokes to fall flat due to the actor's choked delivery. This sort of comedy can work very well given the right context: Day's presence in the film is only one of the similarities to his hilarious TV show It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. But unlike that show, the characters are paper-thin and established only as far as their actors' screen personas have been. All of this is to say that we don't care about these characters, even as they find themselves in deeper trouble than they've ever been.
Nick (Bateman), Kurt, and Dale, having lost their jobs due to the events of the first film, decide to be their own bosses and try to start their own business by inventing a shower product. An immensely wealthy investor in the form of Bert Hanson (Christoph Waltz) approaches them with interest in their product, and they foolishly enter into production without securing their stake. Hanson screws them over, buying all their product on the cheap and leaving them $500,000 in debt. Being the world class intellects they are, they hatch a plan to kidnap Hanson's slimy son Rex (Chris Pine), planning to ransom him to his very wealthy father. Predictably, they botch the job, but Rex blackmails them into continuing the ransom as a ruse so that he can get revenge on his neglectful father and take a big stack of his money in the process.
To say that the cast is wasted is an understatement. Waltz is a two-time Oscar winner, and Pine demonstrates as much as he can his clear talent for comedy, yet neither of them is given all that much to do, especially Waltz, who vanishes for the better part of the film. Aniston, Kevin Spacey, and Jamie Foxx reprise their roles from the first film, with each of them afforded a brief moment in the spotlight, but none of their jokes land, either. There's the (recycled) novelty of watching Aniston take a blowtorch to her Rachel image, but the script gives her nothing deeper to work with beyond saying "cock" a lot. Spacey makes a valiant attempt to seethe and sputter his lines, which are so bad as to afford him nothing. Foxx probably emerges the most cleanly here, as the terrifically named and unpredictable Motherfucker Jones. Yet even his own jokes and gags are rehashed from the first film multiple times, evincing a level of laziness on the part of the filmmakers that is staggering.
What is the point of these films? To make money from their target demographic, of course. I'm glad to hear that it's not doing all the well at the box office. It's possible to make a hilarious comedy with something more on its mind than gay panic and casual racism (watch out for the anti-Asian jokes), but Horrible Bosses 2 is certainly not one of them. Let's hope this series has finally breathed its last.