December 01, 2014

Horrible Bosses 2

Surprisingly, I liked Horrible Bosses 2 better than Horrible Bosses 1. At its core, the set-up is basically the same, but the laughs are more sustained and the comedy fresher. The three leads—Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, and Charlie Day—manage to transcend the one-dimensionality of their characters and at times create great comedy. There’s a wonderful moment when they’re hiding in Chris Pine’s closet (with plans to kidnap him and hold him for ransom so they can retaliate against his father, a businessman who burned them in a deal) and his maid is absent-mindedly hanging clothes on the rack. She slides a bunch of slacks to the left, revealing terror-stricken Charlie Day, who had been hiding behind them. He moves to the left too, to re-conceal himself. Then the maid, still completely unaware, slides the pants to the right, adding another pair of slacks to the rack. Rinse and repeat. It’s hysterically funny, and it’s the kind of ingenious, silly, wonderful thing you’d see in the Marx Brothers or the Three Stooges.

The timing in this movie is absolutely perfect. Jason Sudeikis, whose character is the man-whoriest of the three, diverts his easily distracted attention at always just the right moment. Charlie Day hones his skills at being the last one to get the joke. Only Jason Bateman seems to have stagnated, playing the perpetually annoyed straight man that he hasn’t had to perfect since Arrested Development. (The only change is that he unexpectedly falls in love with Jennifer Anistion’s character and dotes on her without reciprocation. But this little nugget is barely utilized.)

As for Jennifer Aniston, she’s even deadlier (and more delightful) than she was in Part 1. She and Kevin Spacey reprise their roles as the horrible bosses from the first movie, only their parts are secondary now. But their characterizations have also improved the second time around. Spacey is now behind bars, but manages to send the boys with their tails between their legs on multiple occasions. (He seems to be having a wonderful time playing such a detestable man, and yet, there comes a point in the movie when you’re on his side more than that of the protagonists.) Aniston, who you may remember was cast as a nymphomaniac dentist, is now attending sex addiction group therapy sessions. But she’s not particularly committed to beating her sexual problems, and she inserts herself into the kidnapping scheme of the three heroes as a kind of naughty foil. The guys break into her office in order to steal nitrous, only to be derailed when Aniston and her group therapy group arrive unexpectedly. Bateman, who’s supposed to be playing watch dog, is forced to interact with the group, and there are some genuinely horrifying lines of dialogue exchanged between him and Aniston. Horrifying and funny, of course. I was surprised no one walked out of the theater.

I looked back at my review of the first film, and was reminded that the movie seemed slightly off-kilter, and not always in a good way. Yes, it was funny, but with the sequel now in mind, it’s obvious the actors had not yet hit their stride. They find a rhythm in Horrible Bosses 2 that really sells the humor, from the cheap shots to the overly gross sexual innuendoes to the purely insane moments that only work out of pure luck, or maybe pure talent. My only problem with the sequel was that the heroes began to annoy me with their constant stupidity. Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis reminded me of every annoying kid I grew up with who couldn’t shut up, and I found myself, like Jason Bateman’s character, wanting to smack them both repeatedly. But their performances were terrific even if they grated on the nerves at times.

With Christoph Waltz, Jamie Foxx and Jonathan Banks. Directed by Sean Anders. Written by Anders and John Morris.

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