If your answer to the question “When are rape jokes funny?” is anything aside from “never,” the good news is that you may still find a lot to hoot over throughout Horrible Bosses 2. The bad news? Well, it’ll catch up to you when find yourself defending Bill Cosby in mixed company this holiday season. Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, and Charlie Day are back as the trio of feckless corporate minions who, in the original film, lifted logic from Throw Momma from the Train and decided to trade off murdering their spectacularly HR-unfriendly managers. Now the joke is on them as they’ve decided to go into business for themselves and be their own bosses, manufacturing a line of Shower Buddy shampooing devices that basically foam at the head and do all the work for you. In a more self-aware satire, the utter laziness of their invention might have registered as a nifty punchline at the main characters’ expense, but here it instead serves only as an opportunity for some shadowboxing antics simulating sex acts on live TV. Similarly, a savvier comedy would have used their insistence on naming their company after themselves despite the unfortunate homonymous potential (when you say “Nick-Kurt-Dale” too fast it sounds like a racial slur) as a sly wink at the hubris masking their entrepreneurial haplessness. Instead, it’s offered solely for shock value.
One would expect nothing less from the director of That’s My Boy, Sean Anders. But the sociopathic depths to which Horrible Bosses 2 sinks don’t merely add another feather into the cap of an already dubious property like Adam Sandler. They seriously undercut the jocular chemistry shared between Bateman, Sudeikis, and Day, which was the foremost thing the first film had going for it. Their camaraderie elevated borrowed material, papered over crude sexual and racial politics, and defined the moral stakes at the center of the otherwise cartoonish premise. Here, no such luck.
Nick-Kurt-Dale’s pipe dreams of becoming venture industrialists lead them to cut a deal with Burt Hanson (Christoph Waltz, not enjoying himself remotely as much without Tarantino at the helm), a mail-order catalogue tycoon who puts in an order for 500,000 Shower Buddy devices, uses his clout to get the trio a massive bank loan, then sends them up the creek by canceling the order. The immediate lesson is obvious: There’s absolutely no way to not end up getting screwed over by the American dream. But rather than explore the irony, Anders (working with co-screenwriter John Morris) repeatedly shifts the focus toward people getting screwed…the other way.
While Nick, Kurt, and Dale scheme to figure out how to not lose their shirts, there’s Jennifer Aniston’s nymphomaniac dentist Dr. Julia Harris once again tugging at Dale’s zipper. The notion that a sexual predator could be funny simply by virtue of the fact that the predator is a woman was misguided the first time around, but at least then the joke seemed to really be at the expense of Dale’s two friends, who couldn’t comprehend how Dale’s harassment at the hands of a sexy maniac even remotely compared to their own tales of workplace subjugation. Here, the joke’s clearly metastasized to the point where Harris has become an omnisexual tornado, as if to suggest that a woman with a sex drive is as ludicrous as, well, a black man named “Motherfucker” Jones whose only dream in life is to start a chain of frozen yogurt shops.