Often, the minds behind superhero movie franchises decide to start things off with an origin story. And often, that origin story, however mythologically compelling, is not as dramatic or interesting as what follows. Think: Batman Begins vs. The Dark Knight, or Spider-Man vs. Spider-Man 2. There’s a thrill in seeing the costume go on for the first time, but there’s also a sense of obligation: here’s what you need to know before we can start having fun.
Oddly, that’s kind of how I feel about the comedies Horrible Bosses and Horrible Bosses 2. The first film handled the setup: Nick, Kurt, and Dale (Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, and Charlie Day) are miserable employees stuck working for horrible bosses. Eventually, they snap, and their desperate attempts to get out from under go predictably (but not always funnily) awry. There were some good bits, and the three stars played off each other nicely. But by the end, that obligatory feeling had crept in with a vengeance. All bosses accounted for? Right! Roll credits!
Often (too often), the minds behind superhero sequels solve the same-again-but-different problem by going bigger. Add a villain or two (see: Spider-Man 3), raise the stakes, etc. Just so long as it’s more. Horrible Bosses 2 actually goes in for less than its predecessor: this time, there’s only one boss (Christoph Waltz), who must be defeated after he sets up our heroes — now attempting to be their own bosses — to fail in grand fashion. The film keeps what worked in the original (Jamie Foxx’s [Expletive Deleted] Jones, Jennifer Aniston’s horny dentist), and tamps down on what got tiresome (Sudeikis’s skirt-chasing, Kevin Spacey’s bullying). You have what you need to know in the first five minutes; now, you can start having fun.
Part of that fun is Chris Pine, who plays the boss’s handsome, sleazy, never-good-enough son. Pine is in full anti-Kirk mode here: the same smarm and so-crazy-it-might-work strategizing that saves the Enterprise in Star Trek gets employed in the service of egomanaical power-tripping. (Okay, so maybe it’s not exactly anti-Kirk.)
I don’t mean to be too effusive: this is a modest comedy, content to entertain and leave it at that. But maybe that’s enough. It’s silly, it’s cheerfully dirty, and it’s fun.