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Horrible Bosses 2 ***

Is it worth $10? Yes

The appeal of “Horrible Bosses” (2011) was that (at one time or another) we’ve all had odious supervisors. So when Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis’ characters clumsily plotted to kill their bosses, a hilarious revenge comedy ensued. It wasn’t realistic and it didn’t have to be – the draw was in the fantasy, and the ability to live vicariously through these dudes.

“Horrible Bosses 2” takes a different track, and in doing so is still funny but is not as good overall as the original. Whereas previously we could relate to Nick (Bateman), Dale (Day) and Kurt (Sudeikis) when they were underlings for unctuous dictators, this time they’re the bosses as they’ve created a shower product they believe will be the next big thing. Notably fewer of us have been aspiring entrepreneurs, so on concept alone this is harder to relate to than its predecessor.

They seek an investor to get the “Shower Buddy” business off the ground. Enter Burt (Christoph Waltz) and Rex (Chris Pine) Hanson, and father and son team that promises a purchase order of 100,000 units. Unscrupulously, they back out of the deal after the units are produced, leaving the guys $500,000 in debt. As unhappy as they’ve always been at work, these three are not good businessmen.

To retrieve their money, get revenge and save the company, the guys plan to kidnap Rex and hold him for ransom. Familiar faces pop up in the guise of help: An expert criminal whose name is not suited for print played by Jamie Foxx, Dale’s old sex-addicted boss (Jennifer Aniston), and Nick’s old boss (Kevin Spacey), who’s now in prison. (The third boss in the original, played by Colin Farrell, was killed.) Of course the story could’ve been told without these characters, but the original was a huge success in part because of them, and audiences no doubt want them back, so they’re a welcome sight.

One of the flaws here is that co-writer and director Sean Anders plays up their ineptitude to a fault. Dale and Kurt have become bumbling buffoons, leaving poor Bateman to play the straight man naysayer who is (rightly) hesitant of their cockamamie plan. As a result the guys aren’t quite as sympathetic as they once were, though we remain happy to laugh at their hardship. It’s just now the laughs aren’t as genuine because the guys are trying too hard.

Those who don’t find this as funny or creative as the original may write it off as a cash grab for the ensemble, but that would be unfair. This is a well thought-out story that makes sense, and it’s a logical next step for these guys’ lives. It just turns out the story isn’t as successful this time around. Still, “Horrible Bosses 2” is damn funny, and that’s what really matters.

Did you know?

Although they don’t appear on screen together, this is the second time Foxx and Waltz have starred in the same film; the first was when they formed an unflappable duo in “Django Unchained” (2012).

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