In Horrible Bosses, we learned that failure to treat workers with dignity can yield dire repercussions, although the three bumbling half-wits who sought revenge on their appalling employers were unable to absorb that lesson. As a result, we now have Horrible Bosses 2, an energetic sequel that -- with the help of some fresh talent on both sides of the camera -- improves on its scattershot predecessor in all the right ways.
Having narrowly avoided prison following the antics of the previous film, Nick (Jason Bateman), Kurt (Jason Sudeikis), and Dale (Charlie Day) decide to go into business for themselves. When their breakthrough product, the Shower Buddy, catches the attention of a wealthy entrepreneur named Bert Hanson (Christoph Waltz) who offers to bankroll their initial production run, the eager inventors quickly move into manufacturing. Proudly filling Hanson's initial order before the deadline, they decide to surprise their key investor with the good news, only to get a nasty surprise: A shrewd businessman with a serious lack of ethics, Hanson announces that he is cancelling the deal. With no investors to keep the business afloat, the Shower Buddy factory will soon fall into foreclosure, allowing Hanson to scoop up the product at a fraction of the original cost, change the name, and reap the profits. Indignant, Nick, Kurt, and Dale hatch a plot to kidnap Bert's son Rex (Chris Pine) for a healthy ransom, paying a visit to criminal mastermind Dean Jones (Jamie Foxx) for a few pointers on the fine art of abduction. Needless to say, nothing goes quite as planned, and as the police launch an investigation into the elaborate crime, the hapless trio must once again race to stay one step ahead of the law.
An outrageous revenge fantasy that relied heavily on the talents of its titular antagonists, Horrible Bosses felt like a slapstick reworking of Strangers on a Train. Consider it an origin story, because in Horrible Bosses 2, Nick, Kurt, and Dale emerge as a raunchy Larry, Moe, and Curly for the millennial set. New writers Sean Anders (who also directs) and John Morris (who collaborated on the screen story with Anders and original Horrible Bosses scribes Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley) deserve credit for instilling each member of the trio with his own distinctive brand of imbecility here, which ensures they complement each other with comic precision. In Bert Hanson, the writers create an ideal foil for their scheming trio, and much like the wealthy bluebloods who were always hiring the Three Stooges for odd jobs, Waltz plays the character with a contemptible air of smug superiority. Pine, likewise, scores big laughs in his role as Hanson's sharkish son Rex, who emerges as the psychotic wild card once the kidnapping goes awry. Also along for the ride are Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston, and Foxx, the former returning for a brief yet welcome cameo role, while the latter two -- much to the benefit of this unlikely sequel -- take on more active roles that help kick the absurd plot into overdrive.
Taking over for Seth Gordon, director/co-writer Anders instills Horrible Bosses 2 with some stylistic flourishes that give the film a more cinematic feel than its visually pedestrian predecessor, though they never feel overindulgent. An upbeat collection of contemporary pop hits keep the mood upbeat, and running gags involving code names, Dale's devotion as a family man, and Nick's infatuation with Aniston's oversexed dentist balance perfectly with the unapologetically juvenile proceedings to ensure steady employment for all involved.