‘Horrible Bosses 2’ stays true to funny formula

When your low-budget movie grosses $211 million worldwide, your next job would logically be its sequel. But “Horrible Bosses” director Seth Gordon stumbled off to do “Identity Thief” and TV’s “The Goldbergs,” so Sean Anders has been entrusted with “Horrible Bosses 2.”

Fear not. It’s as silly as the first, a shade faster and nastier (though also sloppier) and features a new psycho more dangerous than anyone in the original: Rex Hanson, who engineers his own kidnapping to squeeze $5 million out of his hateful father, Burt. Chris Pine steals the movie as Rex, wrestling Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day to the ground to get it away from them.

They play the same cheerful dolts as last time, guys who have now invented an item that halves the time needed to shower. Burt (Christoph Waltz) promises to distribute it through his catalog company, and they borrow $500,000 in manufacturing money on the strength of a handshake with him. When he cheats them, their only chance to pay back the bank may be Rex’s faux-kidnap plan.

The script by Anders and John Morris jolts clumsily forward at times; even these nimrods would have signed a contract with Burt. Characters from the original have been shoehorned into the story: Jamie Foxx’s addled crook plays a key part, but Jennifer Aniston’s sex-addicted dentist has worn thin. Kevin Spacey rants pointlessly from his prison cell.

Yet the dialogue, which seems improvised at times, goes by like blazes, and we keep our ears cocked to catch the tossed-off and often overlapping comments. (Sudeikis must be making up his monologue during the end credits.) The three leads have remarkable joint timing and chemistry, with the exasperated Bateman playing off the bumbling Day and giddy Sudeikis.

A terrific performance may be beside the point in such a picture, but Pine gives one. Rex is charming, crazy, glib, “sincere,” heartless and wild. “Horrible Bosses 2” doesn’t actually have bosses: Vengeance is directed toward a business partner, and Waltz (who’s out of his element) is more smug than horrible. But Rex becomes as creepy as the three bosses from the first film rolled into one big poisonous ball.

Related stories from Charlotte Observer