FIRST THE GOOD news: Jennifer Anniston. She simply steals every scene she’s in. She’s a fine comic actor, who, dressed in dominatrix spandex looks a treat, and she has the acting chops to make a puerile script (for which the idea of funny is to repeat the word, “cock”) sound funny. The bar isn’t high. Any scene featuring Jennifer Anniston wearing little and the uncomfortable updated three stooges around whom the story is set, (Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day) is bound to come out in her favour.
Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey), now in prison, is still evil, exuding venomous malice, and a surprisingly sharp-witted turn by Chris Pine as Christopher Waltz’ son also add some sparkle to this lackluster affair.
Beyond that, Sean Anders’ dumb reprise of the first, and quite funny version of three hapless men suffering from the tyranny of horrible bosses, is tiresome, tawdry and torpid. But how much can you expect from the director (along with writer David Caspe) who brought you “That’s My Boy” with Adam Sandler.
Bateman plays his usual role as the dull, straight man. It’s a role that works well when it sets off and highlights the madness all around. It worked spectacularly well in Hancock, when his character’s perplexity represented us (the viewers)…how we’d feel. His response to the discovery that his wife was immortal was an exaggerated and funny interpretation of how any of us would have reacted.
And this is essentially what’s missing in this show that strives oh so hard to be funny: for slapstick to work, it has to make you identify with the characters to such an extent that you feel as though you’re in the same uncomfortable situation they’re in. You need to willingly suspend your disbelief and identify with the mourners when the corpse falls out of the coffin or parts of the stage collapses etc.
And part of what made “Horrible Bosses 1” work was that we can all identify with horrible bosses. But HB2 switches the game from horrible bosses to the gang who couldn’t shoot straight. We’re now we’re being asked to identify with three bickering idiots. Bickering can be fun with its cleverly written and the repartee zings with wordplay or thought-play (see Shakespeare). But here the bickering is part of that genre of American comedy that features grown up men acting like children (see “Grown Ups” and “Grown Ups 2”). Perhaps its Hollywood’s infantilization of the American male that makes him feel the need to arm himself and proclaim his adultness and masculinity.
I’d simply suggest you arm yourself against paying for this humourless dud. If you feel you must see it (and, hey Jennifer Anniston, I can understand), wait until it appears on TV (probably in about a month’s time)