Nick, Kurt, and Dale, those lovable losers from the first movie, are now trying to start their own business so they never have to work for a jerk again. Naturally, they don’t know what they’re doing, get royally screwed over by the wealthy father and son enterprise (Christoph Waltz, Chris Pine) who pretend to be interested, and thus they concoct another cockamamie plan to exact revenge and improve their disappointing careers. It’s financial ruin instead of mere workday troubles that they’re attempting to reverse, and the plan involves kidnapping instead of murder, so the trio’s goals earn a little more sympathy in this outing. Regardless, a hit-and-miss script and overly cynical plot twists hamper what might otherwise be a breezy comedy.
Bateman, Sudeikis, and Day still bounce off one another to great effect, except when director Sean Anders decides they should bounce at the same time, with the three actors talking over each other to the point where a viewer wonders if this might be the most annoying sound in the world. Bateman once again knocks the deadpan out of the park, and Sudeikis is appropriately smarmy, but Day’s neurotic stupidity is insufferably grating. Pine is a breath of fresh air as billionaire Waltz’s rejected son who may or may not be warming up to his captors. In fact, the most fun is had when it seems this ragtag group of wannabe criminals might be adding a fourth member to their posse, but one of those cynical plot twists kills that buzz pretty quickly. Waltz brings his requisite gentlemanly villainy to a relatively thankless role, and Jennifer Aniston, Jamie Foxx, and Kevin Spacey reprise their characters from the original with relish. Aniston appears more comfortable in the role of a sex addict, with her potty mouth dialogue rolling off the tongue much better this time around.
While the movie has its heart in the right place when it wants to, occasionally denouncing the outsourcing of corporate production and the resulting death of the “American dream,” such sporadic inspiration can’t make up for character decisions that are consistently irritating, jokes pulled nearly verbatim from other comedies (an early scene mimics Austin Powers to a tee), and a convoluted plot that hinges on the audience’s ability to forget about the feel-good and seemingly genuine bonding that occurs between these fools. “Horrible Bosses 2” comes so close to topping the original, but falls short at the most important junctures. Because hey, it’s funnier if everyone’s a backstabber, right? Right?