November 26, 2014

Horrible Bosses 2

Worst (or best?) episode of "Friends" ever

Grade: C –
Director: Sean Anders
Starring: Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, Charlie Day, Chris Pine, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Aniston, Jamie Foxx and Kevin Spacey
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hr. 48 min.

There’s a not-so-fine line between pushing the comedic envelope and blind bad taste. When Jennifer Aniston’s character in Horrible Bosses 2 graphically fantasizes about two 14-year-old boys having sex at camp, it’s a wince-inducing moment that’s hard to walk back.

Perhaps the pubescent parable by Aniston’s sex-obsessed dentist Julia Harris could have been shoved out of our synapses if it took place in isolation. However, Horrible Bosses 2 is a film that opens with an onanistic sight gag and the three lead characters’ names—Nick, Kurt and Dale—being unwittingly conflated into a racial slur, and it closes with Harris expressing her predilection for somnophilia.

In-between are repeated rape references and racial stereotypes. But every sidelong N-word is OK since there’s always a character of color around to chastise it, right? And when a rich prick demeans his Asian housekeeper, the film’s idea of balance is when she secretly soils the boss’ toothbrush with her backside.

The fault lies squarely with writer-director Sean Anders, brought in to replace Seth Gordon, who helmed the surprisingly successful original about three put-upon pals who plot to kill their overbearing bosses. Anders’ most recent directorial credit was the reprehensible Adam Sandler vehicle That’s My Boy, and he was last seen helping sully the screenplays for Dumb and Dumber To, We’re the Millers and Mr. Popper’s Penguins.

Even the film’s title is now a misnomer. Nick (Jason Bateman), Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) and Dale (Charlie Day) have escaped the clutches of their day-job drudgery to launch a start-up manufacturing an invention named “The Shower Buddy.” But after sinking all their fortunes into churning out thousands of their ablution aids, Bert Hanson (Christoph Waltz), the product’s exclusive millionaire retailer, reneges on their deal in order to acquire the trio’s invention on the cheap once their business goes belly-up.

To save their shirts and company, Nick, Kurt and Dale decide to kidnap Rex (Chris Pine), Hanson’s preening son, and hold him for ransom. The half-baked plot becomes more hairbrained once Rex blackmails the guys into letting him join the scheme in exchange for a handsome share of the money.

The snappy comic chemistry that made the first Horrible Bosses a hit is still there: Sudeikis the horndog oaf, Bateman the slow-burn straight man, and Day the manic mouthmouth. Pine acquits himself well even though his spoiled brat with daddy’s issues seems to be operating on another narrative plain. But Waltz was actually funnier in Django Unchained, and the presence of Jonathan Banks as a police detective only reminded me how I hated the way Mike died in Breaking Bad.

Indeed, it’s telling that anytime the film needs a shot in the arm, it recalls the supporting cast from the first film. Kevin Spacey has a grand ‘ole profane time as a now-jailed Dave Harden, but it’s Jamie Foxx who steals every scene reprising “MF” Jones, a hardened street hood who harbors hopes of opening a Pinkberry franchise.

Unfortunately, Horrible Bosses 2’s sporadic chuckles never congeal into a memorable whole. And with its barrage of gay gags and other egregious overtones, that’s probably for the best.