(Video on Demand, February 2015) Perhaps the most interesting thing about Horrible Bosses 2 is the length to which this sequel is determined to follow-up on a film that didn’t need a sequel. I mean; our heroes having gotten rid of their horrible bosses, what’s left to do? Get newer even more horrible bosses? For a short while, as they create their own company and bumble around making terrible mistakes, it almost looks as if the sequel is ready to invert the roles and allow them to become the horrible bosses. But that’s not to last, as they are swindled by a horrible client, stuck with a kidnapping victim with plans of her own, and overextend itself to bring back the two surviving horrible bosses of the previous film. All handled with a slick tone that never gets too far out of control: For all of the potential violence (and sexual debauchery) hinted at, Horrible Bosses 2 knows that it’s meant to be a mainstream comedy and wouldn’t dare go where audiences won’t like. (Although at least one innuendo in the coda is deeply disturbing) Still: the film moves fairly quickly, gives short but striking moments to both Kevin Spacey (as a horrible boss who won’t let prison tone down his disdain for the protagonists) and Jennifer Aniston (once again playing sultry nymphomaniac), whereas leads Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day are once again up to their own comic personas. The film does have a few visually ambitious moments: There is a good business start-up pan shot early on, and the film is never better or more engaging than when the protagonists lay out their plan (which fails horribly, as expected.) Otherwise, Horrible Bosses 2 is a disposable sequel that’s not too difficult to watch –a bit of faint praise, maybe, but also an acknowledgement that it could have been much worse.
(In theaters, July 2011) Two and a half years after a catastrophic global meltdown, movies are starting to reflect the soul-deadened guilt of those who kept their jobs. Playing heavily on wish-fulfillment, Horrible Bosses dares to ask how much better life would be if people could just get rid of their awful supervisors in the most definitive way possible. It takes strong protagonists to keep our sympathy in such circumstances, and Horrible Bosses get two out of three in that matter: Jason Bateman continues his streak of playing endearing everymen, while Jason Sudeikis somehow manages to make us look past his character’s horn-dog issues. As the remaining member of the trio of oppressed worker looking to dispatch their bosses, however, Charlie Day is almost more annoying than useful, and the tic of reverting to a high-pitched whine whenever things go wrong is annoying the moment it happens a second time. Then there’s the other half of the deal: the bosses. Fortunately, that’s where Horrible Bosses wins a perfect score: Kevin Spacey is deliciously slimy as the kind of arrogant sociopath that climbs up the corporate ladder; Colin Farrell is unrecognizable as a loser working to extract as much loot out of the family company before it goes bankrupt; whereas Jennifer Aniston is all sex-appeal with bangs, toned body and racoon eyes as a crazed harasser. They deserve their fate; the protagonists have suffered enough; and the film can stand on its own. It does get better as it develops, mostly due to some clever writing, sympathetic performances (including Jamie Foxx as a criminal consultant), a few twists in which real world problems become comic plot points, and a conclusion that neatly wraps things up. While Horrible Bosses won’t stick around in popular culture, it’s a decent example of the kind of film it wants to be: It’s amoral without being offensive, edgy without grossing-out and polished to an extent that it leaves little if any unpleasant aftertaste. Good enough for entertainment; consecration isn’t an essential prerequisite with a good-time comedy like this.