There’s no way “Horrible Bosses 2” could repeat the juicy premise of the 2011 original.
These dim dudes couldn’t attempt murdering another three bosses. Instead, this passable comedy switches to a kidnapping scheme.
Sound inspired? Or a bit of a reach?
“Horrible Bosses 2” is both. Some elite performers (including three Oscar winners) deliver plenty of laughs. But this raunchy caper also hints of a slapdash desperation. Although the overall story hangs together, the individual scenes often play like improvised goofing.
“If we’ve learned one thing about ourselves, we’re not murderers,” explains Nick (Jason Bateman).
These days Nick, Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) and Dale (Charlie Day) are aspiring entrepreneurs rather than beaten-down employees. They’ve invented a prototype Shower Buddy, which dispenses water, soap, shampoo and conditioner, one after the other. The product draws the attention of merciless CEO Bert Hanson (perennial villain Christoph Waltz), who agrees to bankroll their initial manufacturing costs. But it’s just a ruse to knock them out of business.
Broke and lacking options, the three partners plan to kidnap Bert’s party-boy son, Rex (Chris Pine), and demand a $500,000 ransom. To pull this off, they consult their tattooed underworld adviser (Jamie Foxx) at his seedy bar and Nick’s former and still-horrible boss (Kevin Spacey) in prison.
With newfound confidence and a strategy, the friends realize they might be pretty good at kidnapping.
“Way better than murder,” Dale beams.
Needless to say, things don’t go as planned.
The heroes’ incompetence makes for choice scenes, as when they use phony accents in a ransom call, their Southern drawls getting riotously more ridiculous.
During a car chase, they jubilantly ditch the police at a railroad crossing, before recalling the plan was to intentionally lure the cops to their hideout and expose their nemesis. Filmmaker Sean Anders (“That’s My Boy”) hilariously lets the camera linger on the guys killing time in a parked car, waiting for a long train to pass.
Ultimately, the movie is just an excuse to reunite its talented stars, who have each climbed higher on Hollywood’s success ladder since the first movie premiered.
Bateman has hit upon a character niche best described as “disgraced yet level-headed.” As in “This Is Where I Leave You” and “Identity Thief,” he masters deadpan reactions and offhand remarks. Kansas City’s own Sudeikis (“We’re the Millers”) is skilled at portraying a brash instigator. His Kurt is the type who probably persuaded his frat brothers to drink too much and steal things. Consequences be damned.
The other star in the comedic trio founders this go-round. Day (TV’s “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”) leapt off the screen in the original as a jittery, good-natured guy who seemed overmatched by any conflict. Here, his grating role is relegated to doing or saying something idiotic that will jeopardize whatever goal is at hand. Essentially, he is Gilligan.
The film’s most memorable performance actually comes from one of its villains. On paper, Pine (the “Star Trek” reboot) is no comedian, yet he creates the funniest character: a self-centered malcontent who pretends to care. The “buddy approach” at its least genuine.
“You had a lot of bad ideas that led to good ideas, and that is valuable,” he compliments the hapless Dale.
The same can’t always be said for “Horrible Bosses 2.”
Rated R for strong crude sexual content and language throughout.
‘HORRIBLE BOSSES 2’
Rated R | Time: 1:48
Opens at 7 p.m. Tuesday
▪ Shawnee Mission West grad Jason Sudeikis stars in “Horrible Bosses 2.” If you missed Sunday’s interview, we’ve saved it for you on KansasCity.com/entertainment.
▪ “Penguins of Madagascar” was written and directed by Shawnee Mission East grad Eric Darnell, the man behind the previous three “Madagascar” movies as well.