HERE'S THE LEGACY of Horrible Bosses 2, the inscription on its gravestone, its one-sentence summary in some future compendium of unasked-for sequels: "The movie where Jennifer Aniston tells someone to poop on her."
There's not much more to say, really. The first installment of the Horrible Bosses franchise, which featured Jason Sudeikis, Charlie Day, and Jason Bateman as bumbling, put-upon everymen who set out to murder their bosses, was funnier than everyone expected it to be. (Cats married dogs, birds flew upside down, women wore pants.) The sequel—same cast, different director and writers—restores balance to the universe by being exactly as bad as it looks.
Horrible Bosses was about three likeable dudes besieged at every turn by threats to their privilege, allowing the audience the unique satisfaction of simultaneously rooting both for and against them. (Look, just let me have my labored feminist rationale for liking Horrible Bosses, okay?) Horrible Bosses 2 is about the same dudes, still likeable, who... want to.... start a business making novelty showerheads? (Insert gay joke here.) So they try to cut a deal with Business Man Christoph Waltz to distribute their Made in America showerheads. (Insert racist joke here.) But he betrays them, because he is a cutthroat Business Man, and also German. (Insert gay joke.) So instead our buffoonish protags hatch a plan to kidnap Christoph Waltz's slimy son, Chris Pine (insert cute girl in a tight shirt walking by), and demand a ransom from his dad? (Insert another girl in a tight shirt walking by.) The plan backfires and hijinks ensue, as well as a truly surprising number of conversations about testicles.
Given that we have the first Horrible Bosses as a control, it's safe to go ahead and blame changes in the writing and directing staff for the profound nosedive this series has experienced between its first and second installments. Under the direction of Sean Anders, Horrible Bosses 2 just isn't very smart: 90 percent of the jokes boil down to "I can't believe that idiot is doing that" and "gay stuff is funny."
To make matters worse, the whole thing is wrapped up in a smirky cynicism about the state of the American economy. ("We're all fucked, right?" Horrible Bosses 2 says. "Now hand over $12 to see a sequel you didn't ask for.") The decline of US-based manufacturing really isn't great joke fodder, and it doesn't help that lines like "The American dream is made in China" sound like they were written by a 14-year-old who just read No Logo.
There are good moments, sure: Jason Sudeikis playing "fuck, marry, kill" with inappropriate pop culture characters. Any Charlie Day reaction shot. Jamie Foxx's excellent reprisal of his "Motherfucker Jones" character. And then there's Jason Bateman.
Here's a question: Is Jason Bateman actually funny? I know, I know, Arrested Development, but—are we sure? Based on his performance here, either his grumpy-dad shtick has worn very, very thin, or he's deeply bored and irritated by this movie. (Which would actually make sense; he is a sentient human. I bet a cactus would like this movie, or one of those microwave cakes you make in a coffee mug.)
Most of the cast has comedic chops, anyway, but the only time you get any sense of how funny guys like Day and Sudeikis can actually be is during the end-credits bloopers. When the blooper reel is funnier than the movie that precedes it, something is wrong.