From behind bars, one of the horrible bosses from the predecessor to “Horrible Bosses 2,” here a savage Kevin Spacey, asks the three dundering heroes at the center of these movies who, in fact, is the worse boss: him or them? He might be evil, yes, but early in the sequel, the schmucks — Nick, Kurt and Dale, played antically by Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day — have torpedoed their hopes at running their own business. Stupidly, they’ve allowed catalog company to renege on a big order of their home-invented shower gizmo. Who is the worse boss, indeed? One who squishes your ego between his fingers like a whitehead? Or ones who let Christoph Waltz, as a smarmy purveyor of yuppie stocking-stuffers, fleece them by canceling a verbal deal?
Not that it matters much; the troika of quick-yammering goobers decide the best way to recoup their losses is to commit another grave crime, achieving some warped justice to boot. In the previous movie, they conspired to kill their respective bosses, on the way to more than $200 million at the box office, sort of inexplicably. It wasn’t all that great. This one’s not, either, but it is amusing, and does feature, again rather inexplicably, three Oscar winners in the cast, as both Spacey and Waltz are two-time winners and Jamie Foxx, reprising his role as a sort of underworld consultant named Mother Jones, except with an f-bomb stapled to that first name. We even get Jennifer Aniston again as a sex-crazed seductress-dentist and Jonathan Banks (Mike from “Breaking Bad”) filling the screen as an LAPD detective. There’s a lot of talent here — more than enough, in fact, to squeeze some legit fun out of a goofball script with more lulls than LOLZ.
The victim of the criminal novicemind plot is catalog-biz heir Chris Pine, the cocky jock with the sapphire eyes, who could use nothing more desperately than a hard slap across the puss. After his old man shanks our protagonists, they decide to kidnap him and ransom him back to the old man. It’s a tough story for writer/director Sean Anders (“Hot Tub Time Machine,” “We’re the Millers” among his screenplays) to keep interesting for the duration of a medium popcorn. Mostly time passes with the three leads tossing dialogue around like pinball bumpers. Bateman, for the nth time in his developmentally arrested career, is the straight man. Sudeikis, half as smart and twice as randy, and Day, a self-incriminating rack of nerves, are the best friends you’d draft last if you were filling your felony fantasy team.
There’s not much of an underlying point to the hijinks, lest you count Waltz’s speech on a putting green that wealth, not hard work, creates wealth. Stick it to the Man, you say in reply, Let’s see ‘im squirm. As soon as the movie hands you a pitchfork, it forgets which way to point it, in true American style. A great number of bosses are not horrible, but at least an equal number of them determine they ought to be in charge largely because they are unseemly sorts. At least in the first “Horrible Bosses,” a vaguely populist vibe drove the action. Ah, but that was 2011. Now the stock market’s up, unemployment’s down, and people maybe hate their bosses a little less, if they’re lucky enough to have ’em in the first place.