By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Just because you can make a sequel doesn’t mean you should.
Take Horrible Bosses 2. Please.
The uninspired, lowbrow, and unnecessary sequel, besmirching the memory of the deserving 2011 comedy hit, Horrible Bosses, resembles its predecessor in just about every possible way — except for the level of quality and the number of laughs. On those scores, the two films part company and exist on different planets.
Horrible Bosses 2 is so desperately unfunny that even the outtakes displayed during the closing credits fall flat.
That’s all the stranger when you consider that nearly the entire cast is back.
But instead of conspiring to get out from under the thumbs of their respective bosses from Hell, as they did in the original workplace romp, Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, and Charlie Day as Nick, Kurt, and Dale, respectively, are attempting to be their own bosses for a change and launch their own business.
Entrepreneurs now, they’ve invented a bathroom accessory called The Shower Buddy.
But when they’re manipulated and scammed by an investor played by Christoph Waltz, who bankrupts their enterprise, they decide to kidnap his spoiled son, played by Chris Pine, and hold him for ransom as a way of getting their business back.
And they prove to be even more inept as kidnappers than they were as murderers.
Other key members of the original ensemble back for a second helping are Jennifer Aniston as a sex-crazed dentist, Jamie Foxx as a felon-turned-crime-coach, and Kevin Spacey as a currently incarcerated, vitriolic ex-employer.
But the bosses, so amusing if not hysterical in the first outing, are just nostalgic background reminders this trip.
Director Sean Anders (That’s My Boy, Sex Drive, Never Been Thawed), taking the directorial reins from Seth Gordon, works from a screenplay that he co-wrote with John Morris, based on a story by Morris, Anders, John Francis Daley, and Jonathan Goldstein.
Apparently, Anders either allowed or encouraged his central trio to improvise and to talk constantly, not just with each other but over, around, and through each other.
And, boy, do they overdo it.
Bateman, Sudeikis, and Day do, it must be admitted, seem to be having a good time.
Not so the audience, as we sit and wait and then realize that we’re experiencing the law of diminishing sequels, as a startlingly low percentage of their improv chatter is actually funny.
As for Aniston, she comes off as a good sport but a bad judge of script quality. The charmingly shocking impact of her raunchy role in the first film has now deteriorated to such a degree that we’re embarrassed for her.
Once again, absurdity, vulgarity, and profanity – all of which certainly have their place — are ingredients in this comedy cocktail, with slapstick, wordplay, and innuendo all part of the anything-for-a-laugh recipe.
But the spark is gone.
Crudity that doesn’t make you laugh just sits there and makes you cringe. And Horrible Bosses 2’s strained attempt to push the outrageousness envelope beyond the limits of the first film makes the performers seem like naughty middle schoolers trying to shock their elders while producing precious few chuckles.
So we’ll fire 1½ stars out of 4. As comedies go, Horrible Bosses was boss. But as sequels go, Horrible Bosses 2 is horrible.