Before I go into any detail about how much I hated this movie (the title surely did love up to its “horrible” billing), I should probably open with a disclaimer about myself that will help my argument. Other critics have been criticised for slagging off the film for being crude and unsophisticated, as well as any other adjectives that are basically irrelevant considering that is the type of film the filmmakers set out to make. As a person with a sense of humour that is notable for being crude and unsophisticated, I can tell you that the main problem with Horrible Bosses 2 is that it is purely and simply not funny.
The first Horrible Bosses outing is surprisingly effective, even in retrospect, although to me it is most notable for introducing me to the screamy-shouty talents of Charlie Day, whose sitcom It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia has become a personal small screen favourite. Over nine seasons, Sunny has dealt with several taboo topics, including (but not limited to) incest and rape. When those jokes appear they never seem like they are trying hard to be offensive, as they are grounded in the reality of the programme and are never written in a way that undermines serious real-world problems, but in a way that smartly satirises society’s views on the subjects (whilst remaining crude and unsophisticated). But most importantly, they are funny and original – it is the only show that can deal with the hot-button issue of incestuous paedophilia via a musical called “The Nightman Cometh”. There is neither any hilarity nor originality in Horrible Bosses 2, as this extended rambling introduction to my review is trying so desperately hard to illustrate.
Of course, you can’t really blame the cast; it’s a collection of A-listers who are clearly just turning up for the cheque and hoping that this won’t become the first film listed on their IMDb “Known for” category. Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day return as Nick, Kurt and Dale, who have now gone into business together to make an invention that reduces the amount of time spent in the shower. Within an introductory scene set on a morning TV show we are given a visual gag that you can see coming from a mile-off (sadly, this line of my review is funnier if you watch the film) and the first in a string of bizarre elements of racism that make no sense whatsoever. You see, their company is called Nick, Kurt, Dale – which according to the logic of this film, sounds like a racial slur when you say it out loud. Of course, it only sounds like that if you say it with the same intonation that Jason Bateman does, therefore rendering it the first of several jokes that are trying to be offensive for the sake of it. The film seems to be asking us “what’s more funny than pointless racism?”
After their appearance on TV, father/son millionaire investors played by Christoph Waltz and Chris Pine (who is the only person onscreen making an effort despite being one of the worst things here) want to purchase their product and make them rich. They soon steal their idea and Nick, Kurt and Dale plan to get the money they deserve back via a 9 to 5 style kidnapping, the first of many nods to pop-culture that is significantly more entertaining than this.
If my disdain for the film’s contents reads as me getting offended, then I haven’t made it clear enough: the movie is trying so hard to be offensive it just ends up being boring. About half an hour in I stopped watching the film so much as I was just looking at it happen in front of me, trying to make myself less complicit in the viewing experience.
I feel like I’m putting too much energy into criticising a film that’s going to have disappeared in a few weeks, shortly after making a fuck-ton of money. Like the kidnapping plot, this is little more than an excuse to generate money for the company, as Warner Bros. will be laughing all the way to the bank. Also like the kidnapping plot, it is ill thought through and was doomed to failure from the start – but judging by cinema’s low comedic standards of late, jokes about comatose rape and reverse-gay panic gags that are actually more offensive than standard gay panic gags are nothing to stop this movie from being a hit. This is a movie that has done the most worrying thing possible: made me believe that I could pursue a career in comedy, as if standards are this low, anyone can do it.