At the risk of suggesting that “Horrible Bosses 2” has a compelling reason to exist, it’s worth noting that the movie does function, on one level, as an anti-capitalist revenge fantasy aimed at the excesses of the One Percent. Mainly, however, this inane and incredibly tasteless sequel qualifies as an excuse to bring back those hard-working funnymen Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis for another round of amateur-criminal hijinks and semi-improvised vulgarity, jabbing away repeatedly at some elusive comic sweet spot where blatant nastiness and egregious stupidity collide — and very occasionally hitting the mark. Warners’ Thanksgiving-weekend release should rack up solid numbers in line with its 2011 predecessor’s $117 million domestic haul; if you laughed at the word “rack,” you should get in line now.
Predicated on a sentiment best articulated by Homer Simpson (“Kill my boss? Do I dare live out the American dream?”), the Seth Gordon-directed “Horrible Bosses” was a sloppily entertaining action-comedy that ended with sensible Nick (Bateman), horny Kurt (Sudeikis) and anxiety-prone Dale (Day) successfully escaping the clutches of their awful employers, even if their planned triple homicide didn’t entirely come off. In the new movie, helmed by Sean Anders from a script he wrote with John Morris, our heroes have liberated themselves from their day-job drudgery and formed their own company, centered around a home-ablution aid called the Shower Buddy.
After trying to publicize their new invention, during which they manage to drop a racist epithet and an onanistic sight gag on live TV, they realize they need a wealthy investor to help them manufacture and distribute their product. Enter Bert Hanson (Christoph Waltz), the smarmy CEO of a retail giant, who offers to bankroll their first 100,000 units for a cool $3 million, which they happily accept — only to find themselves royally screwed over when Hanson reneges on their deal, determined to put them out of business and then buy up what remains at super-low auction prices.
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With no legal recourse, Nick, Kurt and Dale decide to kidnap Hanson’s handsome, preening son, Rex (Chris Pine), and demand a $500,000 ransom. Naturally, their criminal instincts prove no sharper than their business sense, prompting a return visit to the seedy bar where their old friend Dean “Motherfucker” Jones (an endearing Jamie Foxx) gives them advice on how to be all disreputable and shit. They also stop by the local prison to get tips from Nick’s former horrible boss — or rather, his still-horrible former boss, happily played once again by Kevin Spacey, snarling as only Kevin Spacey can. Various complications, double-crosses and chase sequences ensue, as well as one genuinely startling act of violence. Kidnapping Rex turns out to be more of a handful than anyone anticipated, and Pine’s energetic turn as a billionaire playboy with some serious daddy issues gives the proceedings an unexpected shot of adrenaline.
In the most appalling subplot — the one so thoroughly unnecessary that it winds up feeling almost essential — our heroes once again find themselves tangling with Dale’s ex-superior, Dr. Julia Harris (Jennifer Aniston, game as ever), a sexually rapacious dentist who has no qualms about drilling anyone in her path. (There is clearly something about oral hygiene that excites and inspires the makers of this franchise; this isn’t the first “Horrible Bosses” movie where we’ve seen a character introduce a toothbrush into their nether-regions.) In an extra-kinky twist, the plot requires Nick to join Julia’s sex-addiction support group, although needless to say, she hasn’t reformed a whit.
It’s not only the 12-step recovery process that comes under attack here. In various capacities, Anders and Morris have worked on “We’re the Millers,” “That’s My Boy,” “Hot Tub Time Machine” and the forthcoming “Dumb and Dumber To,” and so it should surprise no one that “Horrible Bosses 2” is an equal-opportunity comic offender, aiming cheerful if half-hearted jabs at Hispanic women, Asian women, women in general, gay men and ethical business practices, all the while insulting every conventional notion of plausibility, common sense and good taste. In the end, the movie reserves most of its abuse for its three top-billed stooges, which gives it a redundancy that might also be called integrity, or at least brand consistency. As in the first pic, the actors seem to be riffing as much as reciting, their antic verbal and physical energy (modulated by Eric Kissack’s editing) offsetting the absence of visual wit in this grubby, cobbled-together production.
Once more, Bateman plays the sensible, put-upon leader of the group, though Nick’s R-rated shenanigans with Julia allow him to cut loose for a change, getting more action than Sudeikis’ swaggering horndog. The wild card this time is Day, who seems to have imbibed helium in between takes, pushing his hyper-neurotic-human-chipmunk routine to often excruciating extremes. There are times when you may wish he’d tone it down, but toning it down would probably have been antithetical to the spirit of the whole enterprise, reducing “Horrible Bosses 2” to the level of forgettable mediocrity rather than the memorable, even indelible awfulness to which it cheerfully and sometimes successfully aspires.