"Horrible Bosses," unlike its three bumbling, disgruntled employee/would-be assassins characters, carried out a surprise hit in 2011 as the higher-profile "The Hangover Part II" and "Bridesmaids" grossed and grossed out to great financial success and hilarity.
Now "Horrible Bosses" returns Wednesday with a sequel and a tougher job: To help end a challenging year for movie comedies with a fresh gust of laughter.
Sure, the immensely fun "Guardians of the Galaxy," the year's biggest box office hit so far, delivered the chuckles at warp speed. But the sci-fi adventure homage to "Star Wars" and "Raiders of the Lost Ark," among other classics, isn't an all-out, flesh-and-blood (sorry, Groot) comedy.
"22 Jump Street," the only pure comedy (read: not animated or special effects-driven) in the year's box office Top 10, is hanging in – barely – at No. 10, with "Interstellar" and "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1" just getting started and "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies" on the way. Other than "Neighbors" and "Ride Along," there haven’t been any comedies among the major, mass appeal moneymakers, though the Mutt Cuts van of "Dumb and Dumber To" is just getting into gear.
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The creative team behind “Horrible Bosses 2” can take encouragement from “22 Jump Street,” which was both funnier and more successful than the first installment. Plus, “Horrible Bosses” has a history of defying expectations.
The first installment might have benefitted from the tough economy, with the revenge fantasy resonating more amid high unemployment. Perhaps the film additionally satisfied moviegoers’ underdog jones by casting three actors best known for TV roles – Jason Bateman (“Arrested Development”), Charlie Day (“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”) and Jason Sudeikis (“Saturday Night Live”) – as the stars, above top Hollywood talent like Jamie Foxx, Kevin Spacey and Jennifer Aniston.
The chemistry of the star trio – fueled by Day’s standout performance as a manic loser with a, well, demanding boss (Aniston) – drove the movie, along with some great comic action sequences. The sequel’s premise – a kidnap plot aimed at foiling a vicious business rival – offers the promise of more laughs, tempered by concerns about the franchise running out of gas.
Bateman, Day, Sudeikis and their high-octane supporting players (joined by this time Christoph Waltz and Chris Pine) have their work cut out for them. Check out a preview as comedy fans hope for another good movie about bad people.
Jere Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multimedia NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is also the author of "Raising a Beatle Baby: How John, Paul, George and Ringo Helped us Come Together as a Family." Follow him on Twitter.