Better Than It Should Be

“Horrible Bosses 2” isn’t “Godfather Part II,” but it’s not “Hangover: Part II,” either

Maybe it's time for a new

measuring stick with comedy sequels. Maybe it's just as simple as "Was it better than it should have been?" Sequels, in the majority of cases, are lacking. It's especially true for comedies. For every "Back to the Future Part II" there are dozens if not hundreds of examples like "Blues Brothers 2000" that are flat-out embarrassing. The reason is simple: If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

That's why "better than it should be" has some appeal in cases like these. Exhibit A: "Horrible Bosses 2," the follow-up to a movie with a funny idea and some good riffs, but which wasn't really a genre-defining moment. It made a bunch of money, had a great cast and followed a pretty easy formula. So the sequel could either be the exact same movie again, it could try something a little bit original and be a surprise or it could realize people like what they've got going, not rock the boat and live with the results.

It kind of feels like they made up their mind to not give us "The Hangover: Part II" while also realizing it was too much work to make too many big changes. The end result is a serviceable comedy sequel that, yes, is better than it should be. But it's not without its hiccups.

In the first movie, it was a triple-murder plot gone awry in boneheaded ways. Here, murder gives way to a kidnapping plot. Nick (Jason Bateman), Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) and Dale (Charlie Day) have gone into business for themselves—no more bosses. They've launched a shower tool you should be able to buy from SkyMall and found an interested buyer (Christoph Waltz), who tries to scam the guys out of their idea, leaving a $500,000 hole in their business as a result. To even the score and the ledger, they decide to abduct his douchebag son (Chris Pine).

Here's where "Bosses" gets itself in trouble. If the film had invested more into making the kidnapping angle new and fresh and different, OK. But they fall into the dull routine of familiar faces, so the sexually deviant dentist (Jennifer Aniston) pops by, there's some fun with Nick's old boss (Kevin Spacey), and even Motherfucker Jones (Jamie Foxx) cashes in. Now we're veering into same-old-movie territory. We'll give you one cameo from the first movie, but two of these three actually figure prominently in the story. Grumble grumble.

It isn't that we don't like those characters; it's just that they're such a fixture of the first movie, it's tough to get down to new business with all of them hanging around, especially since Nick, Kurt and Dale are great individually, as a pair or as a full team. Granted, the kidnapping plot is basic and won't really drive the action very far on its own, but new entanglements would have helped what is otherwise a pretty funny second drive down a familiar street.

The balance between the three very funny leads is still there, although Sudeikis' Kurt seems significantly dumber in the sequel. There are probably bigger individual laughs here than in the first movie, if fewer of them, perhaps because the characters are a little more lived-in. And if you were hoping things would get raunchier ... congratulations. But it's not as sharp or crisp as the first "Horrible Bosses."

So while this movie passes the test of being better than it needs to be—no minor accomplishment for a comedy sequel—that doesn't mean this is as good as it could be.

Horrible Bosses 2

Rated R

Starring Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudekis

Directed by Sean Anders

108 minutes

Opens Friday Nov. 28 at most major theaters

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