Having rewatched the first Horrible Bosses for the first time since it came out in 2011, I think the film holds up fairly well. I wouldn’t call it a great comedy, but it is a solid watch that works mainly because it has a cast of incredibly talented actors, to the point where I’d say it’s one of the best ensembles in recent comedies. It wasn’t without its flaws, but the cast did great job in elevating the material. It also made a lot of money, so naturally we get a sequel. Most of the main cast return, but director Seth Gordon and writers Michael Markowitz, John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein are not back, and Sean Anders has been brought in to direct and co-write with John Morris.
Horrible Bosses 2 takes place not to long after the first film. Nick (Jason Bateman), Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) and Dale (Charlie Day) work together to form their own business when they develop a showering product. They receive an offer from a big name investor Bert Hanson (Christoph Waltz), which doesn’t go very well. One thing leads to another and the gang finds themselves in a kidnapping scheme involving Bert’s crazy son Rex (Chris Pine).
I think 22 Jump Street has really spoiled us. It’s hard enough to think of some genuinely good comedy sequels that match or surpass the original’s quality, and 22 Jump Street managed to do that as well as prove itself to be one of the best. So, any comedy sequel from here on out will really have to do something special to stand out. Unfortunately, Horrible Bosses 2 is just another in a long line of unnecessary comedy sequels that do not feel as fresh or as inspired as the first film. Granted, the film is by no means horrible. If anything, it manages to work in the same way the original did, but considering that this is a sequel, I expected more and I expected better.
Like with the first film, what manages to make the film work overall is the cast. Colin Farrell and PJ Byrne are probably the only major actors in the first film that don’t return. Colin Farrell for obvious reasons, though I don’t see why PJ Byrne’s character Kenny doesn’t return in any way shape or form. Chris Pine and Christoph Waltz are the two big additions and they are fantastic. Both are well suited to comedy, and they are both clearly having a lot of fun with their roles. Chris Pine especially (who by the way is probably better suited for comedy than he is as an action lead) has a very manic energy that brings the film to life whenever he is on screen. Even if it does often feel like he’s just playing the same role from his recent outing in Stretch. Jonathan Banks also shows up later as a detective in the film and he is also quite good. Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx and Jennifer Aniston reprise their roles, while the latter two get much more screen time than Spacey. Thankfully, it never feels like them returning is too fan service-y, and serve a purpose to the plot. The three leads are also just as good, if not better, than they were in the first film. Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis have great chemistry together, and a vast majority of the laughs come out of them simply interacting with each other.
The problems with the film are mostly from how underwhelming the story is. For one, the title of “Horrible Bosses” doesn’t really apply, since there aren’t any bosses. Sure there’s this whole thing about the guys wanting to be their own bosses, but it doesn’t build up to anything. A lot of the plot occurs due to the characters’ incompetence-which in typical comedy sequel fashion-the characters feel a bit more like caricatures this time around. Nick is even more of a selfish sourpuss, Kurt is a borderline sociopath who can’t stop thinking about sex (which you’d think would be used for a certain plot point in the film, but nope) and Dale is still the typical Charlie Day character (which I like to describe as the white trash version of the Woody Allen character), but he’s less neurotic as he originally was and is acting like he has a serious mental disorder. Characters repeat the same mistakes and it becomes less and less funny, some of the situational humor feels tired and I still think these films can go darker. That is a problem I had with the first film as well. While it was always teetering on the edge of genuine dark comedy, it kept playing things too safe and more along the lines of typical improve-heavy American comedies. The same problem is here, which is disappointing because I hoped the film would be a bit more risky with its story since they have the success of the first film to practically guarantee a box office hit.
I have definitely seen worse comedy sequels than Horrible Bosses 2 and though the film isn’t too bad, the film ultimately left me wanting more and not in a good way. Sean Anders certainly does a fine job with his direction and he does keep the film visually consistent with the first. However, it is ultimately the actors that keep the film just funny enough to make it worth a watch. Otherwise, the film simply does not do anything new or interesting and it isn’t even consistently funny enough to justify it being made. Great actors alone are not enough to hold a comedy franchise, and at this point, I highly doubt a third one would do anything to change this. In my opinion, it would’ve been much more interesting if the sequel dealt with the Nick, Dale and Kurt becoming horrible bosses themselves and are forced to face the wrath of angry employees. This whole thing with the kidnapping felt like something that was in a script for an entirely different project that was later reworked as a Horrible Bosses sequel. I don’t think it’s a good thing for some of the funniest parts of the film to be during the gag reel at the end credits.
Side Note: So the most probable reason as to why Seth Gordon has not returned to direct Horrible Bosses 2 is because, aside from some television work, he is currently in pre-production on the film adaptation of the popular Uncharted video game series, which he has been hired to direct. The film is due in 2016, but there have already been bits of information released about the film. The latest is that is Oscar-winning writer of The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, Mark Boal, has been brought in to write the screenplay. Multiple writers have been brought in to do different drafts at many points, and it seems like Mark Boal is the final guy to pen the project. The leading role of Nathan Drake has yet to be cast. As a fan of the game, I hope Seth Gordon and Mark Boal are able to deliver since the games are ripe for film adaptations. Also, to diverge a bit-if you haven’t seen Seth Gordon’s first full length project, this is the documentary The King of Kong: A Fistfull of Quarters, be sure to check it out.