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 tell you a few things about myself that actually back up my argument. Other critics have been criticized 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 who co-hosts a comedy podcast 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 reason I’ve self-promoted my podcast is simply so I can reveal myself to be a hypocrite before you read this review any further; like the screenplay for Horrible Bosses 2, me and my friends discuss vulgar and borderline-offensive topics in the hope of generating laughs (although we never approach the issues of race or sexuality, meaning we have far stronger moral compasses than the writers here). But me and my friends aren’t professional comedy writers, so our badly judged senses of humour can be happily overlooked. If we were professionals, surely the first thing we should do is write funny jokes, instead of (as is the case here) deliberately trying to be as offensive as possible? It’s not edgy, it’s just boring. As somebody who tells these types of jokes badly for a living, I can detect the same kind of awfulness in comedy movies from a mile off. If an unprofessional idiot like me can do it, shouldn’t you aim higher?
I have been told by friends that I demand too much from movies- yet I wasn’t asking for a masterpiece, just a comedy that would make me laugh, the sole thing every comedy movie should do. The first Horrible Bosses outing is actually rather good, 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 is pretty much my favourite thing in the entire world. 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 satirizes 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 moral outrage at any racist elements reads as me getting offended by the movie, 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. But the film’s biggest enemy is its structure, with plot holes so big Matthew McConaughey could pilot a spaceship through them. Case in point: after outlining an idea to the gang, Motherfucker Jones (Jamie Foxx, whose negotiating tactic is the closest thing in the film to being amusing) becomes absent from the plan, never corresponding with them as it unfolds or develops into something different. Yet he appears out of nowhere to rescue them in a moment of need, which is never explained- if the comedy was doing its job I’d be laughing so hard I wouldn’t notice that he would have no right to be there. But because the movie seems so concerned with being “edgy” as opposed to being funny or entertaining, the structure of the narrative seems little more than an afterthought, if it was thought of at all. Just because the sequel was greenlit purely for the money doesn’t mean it can’t be good.
I feel like I’m putting too much energy into criticizing 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.