Wednesday 17 December 2014

Horrible Bosses 2 (2014) - Movie Review

Given my compulsion to review every new film I see, I will inevitably come across some films that are easier to talk about than others; whether it’s because it’s easier to talk about bad films than good ones or because some films engage me more and leave me more to work with in terms of writing, not every film will give me the same amount of content. This is such an occasion, only for different reasons than usual. It isn’t because this film is entirely good, leaving me with less to talk about, nor did it fail to leave me with much to talk about. No, this time the difficulty in writing a review for this movie is, put simply, because it is just plain unpleasant to recollect.

The plot: Nick (Jason Bateman), Dale (Charlie Day) and Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) go into business together with a gadget called the Shower Buddy. They negotiate a business deal with Burt Hanson (Christoph Waltz) who then screws them over and leaves them in debt. As revenge, they arrange to hold his Burt’s son Rex (Chris Pine) hostage to get ransom money from Burt. Things go awry, however, when Rex discovers the plan… and he wants in.

As part of my preparation for whatever I go to see in the cinema, if it’s a part of a series, I will usually go back and watch whatever films came before it to get more of an idea of what I’m getting myself into. For example, when Step Up: All In came out, I went back and watched the first four Step Up films before going to see it. As such, I went ahead and caught up on the first Horrible Bosses movie and… it’s alright. It had a lot of problems, like the overabundance of jokes about male rape along with subsequent brushing-off of male rape as not being a big deal by some of the main characters, but after it got past the first act it picked up the pace and managed to deliver a decent enough movie, provided you are willing to stick out for the long haul.

How does this film hold up by comparison? Somehow, it is both better and worse than that movie was. Regardless, however, this is very much a proper continuation of the previous film for better or for worse: For better because it at least feels like this film has some partial reason to exist as a means of continuing the story; for worse because it heavily assumes that you have the previous film fresh in your memory when seeing this one, given the nature of a lot of the callbacks to that film are read.

The cast here have a lot of fun with their roles and that makes way for the audience to have fun watching them: A returning Jason Bateman continues to do a great job as the straight man in the main trio; Jamie Foxx does a bit more scene-stealing here, and feels slightly shoehorned into the story as a result, but he still has that charisma that helped make his role in the original so memorable; and Kevin Spacey returns for a few scenes to make some of the film’s best moments once again. On top of the returning cast, we also have some newcomers: Christoph Waltz has made a major name for himself in the last few years for playing fun villains and he adds another notch to that bedpost here. He may not be as deliciously vile as the bosses were previously, but he manages to pull off his role with the right amount of hateable and watchable.

Chris Pine, however, is an entirely different story: He is absolutely amazing in his role as Rex. He undoubtedly has the most fun out of all the actors and turns that into the best performance of the movie; every second he’s on screen, he has insane comedic energy that keeps audiences engaged regardless of what’s going on in-scene. The downside of the cast, unfortunately, is Day and Sudeikis as the other two leads. They have a little too much fun and seem to slack off a bit in terms of their performances. Sure, Day has a couple of moments where he is able to make his mark, but otherwise the two of them seem to stay in neutral for the majority of the film.

People who say that comedy isn’t an exact science have yet to see this movie. I’ve seen films before with predictable jokes, but it’s not until this film that I have come across predictable character dynamics, or at least to this degree. Here’s pretty much every interaction between the three mains: Nick is the straight man, Kurt is the pronounced arsehole (at least, more so than the others) and Dale is the Galifianakis wannabe; whenever someone suggests something, Kurt and Dale immediately agree with it until someone else (usually Nick) points out a flaw with it and then they immediately agree with that instead. Rinse and repeat a few times per scene and you have the interactions.

In terms of content, I am extremely thankful that they decided to dial down the reprehensible male rape jokes. However, to replace it, they decided to crank up the gay jokes in their place, which only slightly less obnoxious. My own sexual preferences notwithstanding, I do not get why this is still a go-to brand of comedy; it rarely comes across as funny to me and it’s one of the few things that I actively question why other people find it funny. Call me a killjoy if you want, it’s just how I feel about the whole thing. However, with that said, whenever this film makes a good joke, it aims well and brings major laughs with it. What’s more, once this film gets into a rhythm, it can deliver strings of good jokes that definitely help improve this film. The comedy, put simply, is a mixed bag: When it’s good, it’s really good; when it’s bad, it’s quite irritating.

This is a decent plot, if slightly predictable concerning the ending. I won't spoil it here, but it’s something that is lampshaded in-film because of how obvious it is (Although, admittedly, said predictable moment is still handled well). Rather than going with Sequel Rule #34, the writers make a genuine attempt to tell a different story, while still keeping continuity with the original. The way it keeps continuity is to be commended as well: Plot points in the previous film that were left open are continued here, and even points that were resolved lead to some decision made by the heroes in this film. It all goes well… until the ending.

It is here that we are greeted with the main reason why this film is so unpleasant to recall. This ending leaves a proper foul taste in the mouth, and kind of sullies a lot of the good that came before it. After the climax, there’s a short epilogue that shows what happens to the characters after the fact, and we get a solid punch to the face with what seems like all of the date rape jokes that they refrained from using earlier all at once. Not only that, while the first film had an ending that felt triumphant and saw our main characters in a better place than they were when they started, here we are left with them in a worse position than they were in before, Day perhaps the most so (His resolution is the entire reason the epilogue feels so bad).

All in all, while a marked improvement over the original in some respects, this still has a lot of issues. What’s worse is that, in all honesty, most of these issues could have been forgiven had it not been for the sucker punch of an epilogue that just sours the production as a whole. However, I still give this film a recommendation, if for nothing more than to see Chris Pine give one of his best performances to date.

1 comment:

  1. I love me some dumb lolz and Horrible Bosses 2 brings the lowbrow humor in spades.