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Saturday, 13 December 2014

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Horrible Bosses 2

Directed by: Sean Anders

Produced by: Brett Ratner
Jay Stern
John Morris

Screenplay by: Sean Anders
John Morris

Starring: Jason Bateman
Charlie Day
Jason Sudeikis
Jennifer Aniston
Jamie Foxx
Chris Pine
Christoph Waltz

Music by: Christopher Lennertz

Cinematography by: Julio Macat

Editing by: Eric Kissack

Studio(s): New Line Cinema
RatPac Entertainment

Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures

Release date(s): November 26, 2014 (United States)
November 28, 2104 (United Kingdom)

Running time: 108 minutes

Country: United States

Language: English

Production budget: $42 million

Box-office revenue (as of publication): $62, 070, 934

Rightio, I've got a good enough amount of work on the plate right now, but still enough time to keep on top of this bad boy and fire out a few reviews. As I mentioned in my previous review, I've decided to merge the months of November-December into one bracket, and then I'll be heading into January, which will be a big and busy enough period in it's own right. On another note, I re-watched Drive there for the first time in a couple of years, and I was reminded of everything I loved about it the first time round. If anything, the picture has grown on me and I think better of it now than I ever have. While at the time I commented that Nicolas Winding Refn still had his best movie ahead of him, Drive is full of audio-visual splendour and contains a transcendent poetry in the understated romance between Ryan Gosling's Driver and Carey Mulligan's Irene, striking an emotional chord that many strive for but fail to achieve. With that being said, for all the latest and greatest according to the movies, keep your eyes posted!

Today's film up for review is Horrible Bosses 2, the sequel to 2011 black comedy Horrible Bosses, which was a surprise hit, exceeding box-office expectations and having a mostly positive critical reception, both of which together are unusual for a mainstream comedy. I myself liked the film very much upon it's release, giving it a 7.5/10 rating and one of the better genre pictures in a stand-out year for comedy, including films such as The Artist, Beautiful Lies, The Beaver, Bridesmaids and Rango. With these circumstances in play, we have the sequel. Directed by Sean Anders (his previous film, That's My Boy, was wholly underrated and the best thing Adam Sandler has done in years), HB2, to coin if an acronym (if an acronym can indeed be coined), under-performed at the box-office and has had a pretty bad critical response. In other words, quite the opposite to the original. However, I went into this with an open mind, being a fan of the first picture and That's My Boy, so, let's get going with the plot synopsis: our three protagonists from the first film, Nick Hendricks (Jason Bateman), Kurt Buckman (Jason Sudeikis) and Dale Arbus (Charlie Day) are back and have decided to start their own business. Innovating a car-wash-inspired shower head, dubbed the 'Shower Buddy,' the boys have issues finding investors until they are approached by Burt Hanson (Christoph Waltz) and his son Rex (Chris Pine). Wishing to manufacture the product themselves, Nick, Kurt and Dale take out a business loan, rent a warehouse and hire employees to build one-hundred thousand units. However, Burt back out of the deal at the last minute, having never signed an official, legal document agreeing to it, planning instead to take their inventory when Nick, Kurt & Dale (the company's name) goes into foreclosure, selling them under the name 'Shower Pal,' and leaving the three five-hundred thousand dollars in debt. Like the good citizens that they are, they form another one of their hair-brained schemes, with assistance from regular cohort Dean 'Motherfucker' Jones (Jamie Foxx), to kidnap son Rex and obtain ransom money from Burt to pay off their debt. Got it? Good!

To start off with the good, I have to give praise to the ensemble cast. Returnees Jennifer Aniston, Kevin Spacey and in particular Jamie Foxx are good in their parts, but in the supporting category Chris Pine is a welcome addition and undoubtedly the strongest performer in the picture. This is a different sort of part, and he does a great job of playing an absolute weasel of a character. Pine uses his whole self, in terms of physical body language, in order to express the manic, unhinged psychopathy of this occasional-emotional wreck of a man-child. Also, despite the fact we know he's a notorious doublecrosser and backstabber, it's still easy to fall and believe in these elaborate, hair-brained schemes of his. This was definitely one of my favourite supporting performances of the year. Also, as they say, if it's not broken, don't try and fix it, as the three leads, Bateman, Sudeikis and Day retain that same sparkle of chemistry that they had in the first film. Arguably, that was the one feature that made the first film such a hit, as these three different versions of the average joe went about, with varying degrees of success, murdering their bosses. The three are terrific at making all of their dialogue, though improvisational, feel like a conversation of friends bickering and make it very funny. Although they witter on a bit more here than they did in the first, where the film shines is not in elaborate, stagey set-pieces, but rather on the humorous interactions between the three leads. Note that, yes, I said "humorous." My highlighting it is not an act of sarcasm, but a positive indication of my feelings regarding the film. By my own admission, comedy is normally a hard sell on me and because my sense of humour is a bit polarising at times, and I'm usually the first to lambast a mainstream comedy. I have been a stalwart in deriding The Hangover films, the group of movies that Horribles Bosses and this sequel perhaps most resemble, in terms of three Joe Bloggs' ending up in some ridiculous situations. However, I'd be lying if I said that I didn't enjoy Horrible Bosses 2 a lot, and even recognising that it is at times terribly flawed, I laughed pretty consistently throughout the film. The dialogue is of a high standard, the driving force of the film, and while I said the set-pieces weren't the highlight, they do provide the film with some very funny situations. The sex-addiction group meeting scene was hilarious, as was the cupboard scene during the guys' attempt at kidnapping Rex Hanson (both scenes involving three men in small enclosed spaces and nitrous oxide, so that probably says a lot about me!). Even little things in the planning of the kidnapping such as the permanent marker and the ridiculous Southern-hick accents they put on. Finally, Sean Anders' involvement is worth noting, in that he took Adam Sandler and managed turn out, with all it's twisted, absolute vulgarity, the comic's funniest film in years. Here, he gets a very different kind of task, taking the helm to an already established formula, and he does a solid job in tending to this and maintaining it. He has proven himself a reliable, go-to journeyman who can be depended on to tend a project and do a worthy job to bring out the best in his stars.

Now, while I found Horrible Bosses 2 to be a consistently funny movie which I found to be a lot better than the impression one might get from the box-office numbers and critical response, it still has to be admitted that there are a number of central flaws. The first of these, which kind of gets to the crux of all that is wrong here, is that even if Horrible Bosses was a very good film, I don't know if many people were asking for a sequel. Even with qualities, this still counts as one of the most perfunctory, unwarranted sequels of recent memory. The reason we are getting this is because the movie was highly profitable in the United States and the studios/distributor attempting to repeat the formula of The Hangover films. So, for starters, money that was the project's catalyst, never a good sign. The predecessor is not a film whose design lends itself to franchising, and as such the attempts to create a whole new plot around these characters comes across oftentimes as drawing it out too much and rather tiresome. Why is that Hollywood has to try and turn every sleeper hit into a franchise? Less is more. I may have enjoyed Horrible Bosses 2, but I think they have well and truly milked this cow dry, and I never want to see another one. Speaking of drawing the plot out, it's rather a thin one, so we have much of the mass improvisation of Horrible Bosses being stretched even more in this. Although it works in some regards, in others it doesn't. At one-hundred and eight minutes, this is too long, and between all the wittering, you could have cut this to ninety minutes sharp. The thin plot also affects the characters, so that while Chris Pine has a strong part in Rex Hanson, poor Christoph Waltz, who lights up the screen in just about every movie he's in, is saddled with a rather generic businessman who comes across as a poor man's retread of his Colonel Hans Landa. It's like for his scenes, they pointed a camera and said, "You know thing you did for Quentin? Yeah, do that!" It's a shame that he is wasted in an otherwise strongly cast picture. 

Still, despite the fact that Horrible Bosses 2 has quite obvious problems with it (at it's essence, it's needless and perfunctory, thinly plotted out and some of the characterisation is weak, wasting the mighty Christoph Waltz), I still rather enjoyed the movie. I'll never say that the movie is anything special, but I dig the chemistry between Bateman, Sudeikis and Day, and it features a terrific supporting turn from a game Chris Pine. The dialogue, a lot of which came from improvisation, is strong, providing the film of much of its laughs, and some of the film's more overt 'set-pieces' were rather humorous. Finally, it's more proof of Sean Anders as a reliable, go-to journeyman who can be brought into a comedic film project to cater towards and bring out the best of his stars. Completely perfunctory, but nevertheless enjoyable.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 6.9/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Alright

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