Director: Sean Anders (That’s My Boy)
Writers: Sean Anders & John Morris (Dumb and Dumber To, We’re the Millers), John Francis Daley & Jonathon M. Goldstein (story), Michael Markowitz (characters)
Producer: Chris Bender, Brett Ratner
Studio: New Line Cinema, Warner Bros.
Running Time: 108 min
Starring: Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, Charlie Day, with Jennifer Aniston, Jamie Foxx, Chris Pine, Christoph Waltz, Jonathan Banks and Kevin Spacey
Plot: Dale (Charlie Day), Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) and Nick (Jason Bateman) decide to go into business for themselves. Their entrepreneurial plans hit a snag when a seedy investor (Christoph Waltz) decides to sell them out. Frustrated they decide to kidnap his son (Chris Pine) for ransom.
Pre-Analysis: There’s a hint of ambition in this sequel that takes a singular premise and evolves a story in a way that makes sense despite it being a cash grab. Our three heroes work for themselves and get involved with a seedy investor. Good enough for me. Not so for other critics as it’s currently rated 12% on Rotten Tomatoes. Then again the opposite occurred for Anchorman 2 where critics loved it and I did not. It’s great that comedy is subjective and because comedy is subjective, because the bar that is set is always by you.
Review: Wow this movie has a big cast! Horrible Bosses 2, a somewhat odd choice for a sequel uses the plot as an excuse to go from scene to scene and actor to actor. Many of the actors have basically one note to hit; Bateman is the straight-man, Day is neurotic, Sudeikis: easy-going & morally questionable.
The supporting actors have even much less to work with. Jennifer Aniston reprises her role (somewhat against type) as a sexual deviant. I have to say her material for not being that funny in the first places waltzes into territory that is a little hard to condone (for me). Kevin Spacey shows up in a glorified cameo appearance, and Jamie Foxx is there again as phony criminal Motherf*cker Jones. This is all, like the sequel business to diminishing returns.
Christoph Waltz as a standard seedy business man and Chris Pine as his son are new additions. The former is typecast as a ruthless villain while Pine gets the most fun out of playing both sides. He does some physical comedy, brings his standard charm that is at times devious and plays well with the rest of the guys. His character is somewhat interesting if a little uneven, and mostly used as a plot device.
It’s a small accomplishment that the film’s cast mines a lot of chuckles from the weak material. Even though none of them are major box-office stars yet, they’re further ahead than they were 3 years ago when the original came out. They bring a lot of energy to their roles, so much at times it often devolves into a 3 way shouting match, but they have enough chemistry that they know how to bounce off each other. Charlie Day remains somewhat a third wheel operating on a different plane than the two Jasons’; his manic style of comedy is mostly a solo act, but adds variety even if its a bit tired by the film’s end.
The lack of characterization hurts the film for some of the jokes, as they would hit harder if these soundboards were actual people. Why is it so funny that Bateman is pining after Aniston’s character? It felt somewhat cheap move for the movie to suggest the two characters have never been seen or met before. And much of what happens in the film particularly another car chase (recycled from the first) stretches realistic credibility. These are small criticisms for a comedy but add up to a big difference. The movie is so loose in defining character intelligence, I found it at times frustrating how dimwitted these characters could be if they somehow could manage to patent a successful enough idea and attract investors. At times they can be creative only to undermine themselves in a frustratingly ridiculous way.
A scene involving a detective played by Jonathan Banks epitomizes the film. Having just kidnapped their investor’s son, the trio arrives to their work greeted by police officers. Nervously, Dale cops to information that would ordinarily compromise them, but they back each other up with such conviction and suddenly sullen confidence it barely, haphazardly saves them.
When the film embraces outrageousness rather than having characters worry about real world consequences they’ll never receive the film can be fun. A montage in the first act effectively details the development of the manufacturing warehouse giving a timely jolt of energy and shows directorial flair (also had in a previous Sean Anders’ film Sex Drive). Another great edit later in the film detailing the team’s drop-off plan gets funnier after its realistic application comes to light.
Much of the plot comes together in an improvised feel, as if it was made up by the filmmakers as they went along. It probably was as most cash grab sequels are. It’s inventive when it works and lazy and incoherent when it doesn’t. But that’s how comedy also works, much like the characters themselves. Jason Sudeikis is at his funniest in the outtakes, left unbound by the film’s rules free to riff around. If only the entire film could be as openly free-flowing. Instead of landing as yet another mixed bag of ideas and jokes. A solid yet, predictable plan for better and worse.
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*I thought Kevin Spacey looked weird in character animation for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare as his upper forehead did not move. I thought it looked stiff and unemotive. Now in this film I see that it was uncanny, he however must’ve gotten botox or something.
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