Jason Bateman

Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis and Jason Bateman star in “Horrible Bosses 2.”

Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of New Line Cinema | Daily Texan Staff

It’s obvious that “Horrible Bosses 2” was only created because of the success of the previous film, “Horrible Bosses,” which was a crudely hilarious screwball comedy that featured great performances from both the talented leads and the supporting cast. In this mind-numbing sequel, however, there are only fragments of the charm exhibited by the original. Even strong acting performances can’t save a weak story. 

After escaping the tyranny of the bosses that drove them to near insanity, friends Nick (Jason Bateman), Dale (Charlie Day) and Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) decide to create their own business — peddling novelty shower accessories. Soon after meeting with wealthy businessman Bert (Christoph Waltz) and his tenacious son Rex (Chris Pine), the three friends discover that the two businessmen have scammed them out of their profits and essentially taken control of the company. Determined to keep themselves out of financial jeopardy, the three — along with ex-convict Dean Jones (Jamie Foxx) — hatch a plan to kidnap Rex and collect a ransom. Naturally, through a series of bizarre comedic mishaps, the plan goes awry.

“Horrible Bosses 2” desperately leans on its predecessor for support. Considering that two out of the three “horrible bosses” return in extended cameos, it becomes clear that the sequel borrows too many elements from the first film without adding any innovative ideas. Plus, plotting a kidnapping seems tame for the same group of men who were willing to commit murder in the first film.

The only elements added by director Sean Anders — like the shower business subplot and the new characters — feel flat and uninspired. Part of the charm of the first “Horrible Bosses” was how cruel and cartoon-like the antagonists were, but the new villains are just boring stereotypes of arrogant executives. 

The return of the crude humor seems unsavory a second time around. There are moments that induce instantaneous chuckles and a few belly laughs, but much of the improvised dialogue fails to translate. The sex jokes are constant, and even those who aren’t at all prudish will find the jokes uncomfortable and repetitive.

The acting is the only highlight, as it’s clear the chemistry between Bateman, Day and Sudeikis is impeccable. The characters they portray are a major issue, however, especially Day’s and Sudeikis’. While the duo played delightful, goofy screw-ups in the previous film, the follow-up regresses them to full-fledged morons. Waltz’s talent is tragically wasted as the older executive, but Pine has a few funny moments as the sociopathic son. While Jennifer Aniston’s return as the sex addicted dentist feels forced, Kevin Spacey’s reprisal as the ruthless Dave Harken is memorable. 

A clever concept motivated the original “Horrible Bosses,” but box office hits motivated this sequel. Lost in a weak story and tired humor, “Horrible Bosses 2” becomes another sequel that is ultimately meaningless and dull.

Movie Review

This undated publicity image released by Universal Pictures shows Melissa McCarthy and Jason Bateman in a scene from "Identity Thief." (Photo courtesy Universal Pictures)

Identity Thief” is exactly what you expect when you sit down to watch a road movie from the director of the mediocre “Horrible Bosses” starring Jason Bateman — yet another film where an everyman is stuffed into a car with a sociopath and something loosely resembling hijinks ensues. “Identity Thief” is the blandest possible version of that movie, seemingly assembled from bits and pieces of better films on some sort of production line for mediocre comedies.

Bateman plays Sandy Patterson, a mid-level financial worker who, in a remarkably gullible move, gives out his Social Security number over the phone to someone offering him identity theft protection. A few weeks later, Diana (Melissa McCarthy) has run up thousands of dollars of credit in his name. When local police are unhelpful and his job is put into jeopardy, Sandy sets off across the country to wrangle Diana and bring her in to answer for her crimes.

From the very beginning, “Identity Thief” strains the boundaries of credibility. Many of its characters are simple plot devices, especially the police who literally shrug and tell Sandy he’ll have to go catch a criminal on his own. Screenwriter Craig Mazin’s work has been mostly composed of the “Scary Movie” and “Hangover” sequels, and his reliance on humor over character development carries over here. Unfortunately, even though there is the occasional laugh in “Identity Thief,” it’s almost entirely because of the actors’ delivery of Mazin’s half-baked dialogue.

Director Seth Gordon made one of the documentary genre’s most enjoyable films with 2007’s “The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters,” but he’s floundered in Hollywood, producing work that sternly adheres to a regimen of predictability and tonal dyslexia. Gordon’s direction is competent in that he frames his actors well and doesn’t draw too much attention to himself, but huge chunks of “Identity Thief” are utterly forgettable detours populated by an impressively
expansive cast of misused actors. There’s no originality or purpose to “Identity Thief,” and it’s hard to engage with a film when every beat is blatantly transparent.

Despite the vacuum of talent behind “Identity Thief,” both Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy try their very hardest to sell this material. Since “Bridesmaids,” Hollywood has been bending over backward to give roles to McCarthy, but her typically abrasive comedic signature turns Diana into a repulsive, deeply unsympathetic character. However, when McCarthy commits to a part, she really goes for it, and while she proves to be a reliable source of laughs throughout, she’s equally impressive in the film’s dramatic moments.

Meanwhile, Jason Bateman continues to display horrible taste in projects alongside effortlessly deadpan comedic chops. Bateman has been the leading man in a number of abysmal comedies over the last few years, and his straight-faced exasperation seems equally driven by McCarthy’s character and a desire to get into a better movie. Even so, any part of “Identity Thief” that works is thanks to McCarthy and Bateman’s alternately tender and acidic dynamic.

Without a number of other movies leaving a road map for how to tell this sort of story, “Identity Thief” wouldn’t exist. The film feels blatantly manufactured, its characters rarely rising above their roles as simple joke delivery mechanisms. “Identity Thief” will likely go down in history as a flavorless product existing solely to give its cast and crew something to do, as a film that cribs so ruthlessly from its predecessors that it’s blissfully unaware of just how accurate its title is.

Published on February 8, 2013 as "Identity Theif lacks own identity". 

Dave Lockwood’s (Jason Bateman) moments with his children are perhaps the most uncomedic scenes in "The Change-Up." (Photo courtesy of Universal)

When you hold director David Dobkin’s “The Change-Up” next to his 2005 comedy “Wedding Crashers,” it literally boggles the mind that these two films came from the same director.

Not to say “Wedding Crashers” is a cinematic achievement of the highest order, but it’s a film that keeps the laughs coming throughout and most importantly, understands the dynamics of male friendship. “The Change-Up” is a different story entirely. It does none of these things, and when it attempts to, it fails massively — making it easily one of the worst films of the summer.

The plot is about as complex as your average restaurant menu. Single, unmotivated Mitch (Ryan Reynolds) swap lives with hard-working lawyer and dad Dave (Jason Bateman) right when they’re about to face some of the biggest professional and personal obligations of their lives. The two quickly try to recreate the circumstances of their switch, which happened to involve peeing in a fountain.

The plot is perfunctory at best. The entire narrative arc of Dave and Mitch’s quest to get their bodies switched back is them waiting around for a phone call telling them where the fountain they have to urinate in has been moved to. It’s a sad excuse for a plot and shows how little thought was put into solving the film’s main narrative conflict.

A slight plot might be forgivable if the film was funny enough to distract from its lack of narrative window dressing, but the film’s humor goes from corny to obvious to juvenile on a level that even your inner 12-year-old may think is too lowbrow.

The characters are no better. Dave and Mitch aren’t exactly likeable when the film starts, and watching them make a complete mess of each other’s lives does nothing to make you root for them.

Bateman, who can usually coax some semblance of humor out of the lamest jokes, simply cannot do a good Reynolds imitation (which mostly involves him acting like an idiot and swearing a lot in inappropriate situations), and Reynolds crashes and burns in almost every scene, disposing of what little goodwill he had left over from last year’s spectacular “Buried.”

The supporting cast fares a bit better. As Dave’s wife, Leslie Mann plays a weaker variation on the frustrated wife role she played in “Knocked Up,” and she brings a beaten-down humanity to a film sorely lacking it. Olivia Wilde is asked to be a charming, too-good-to-be-true love interest, and she does that very well, and Alan Arkin is sorely underused as Mitch’s disapproving father.

So much about “The Change-Up” just feels glossy and manufactured, made worse by the film’s odd reliance on sloppy CGI. For instance, Dave’s infant twins are rapidly flickering in and out of lackluster CGI when they need to start playing with knives or spray feces onto Jason Bateman’s face. The CGI just adds another weird, distancing element to a film that’s already overflowing with them, making the whole thing feel even more manufactured.

There is no good reason to subject yourself to “The Change-Up.” This summer has been overflowing with strong R-rated comedies, from “Bad Teacher” to “Horrible Bosses” to “Friends With Benefits,” and all of them funnier and with more heart than “The Change-Up” could ever dream of having. A cinematic black hole, the film lacks logic, humor or any sort of recognizable human behavior from its main characters; it’s a film so terrible that you will wish none of its fine collection of actors had ever succeeded, just so you wouldn’t have to be sitting in a theater watching this terrible, terrible film.

Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis find themselves in a sticky situation in “Horrible Bosses.” Photo courtesy of AP.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

This summer has been notoriously strong for R-rated comedies. “Bridesmaids” has become the highest grossing Judd Apatow movie ever, and “Bad Teacher” is doing an unexpected amount of business as well. “Horrible Bosses" is the next major comedy to hit theaters this summer, and it suffers from some of the same problems as “Bad Teacher” — namely, a script that could have used a few rewrites. Also like “Bad Teacher,” it’s saved by a game ensemble; all of them hilarious.

The film’s titular bosses are played by Kevin Spacey as a manipulative executive drunk with power, Colin Farrell as a coked-out force of destruction and Jennifer Aniston as a fearfully aggressive dentist. After their bosses become too much to endure, their respective employees — played by Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day — decide to kill them, hiring a “murder consultant” played by an energetic Jamie Foxx.

Films such as this live and die based on their cast, and “Horrible Bosses” has assembled an impressive ensemble. The bosses are used a bit too sparsely, with Aniston’s character disappearing from the film for much of its latter half. However, when they’re onscreen, they’re often hysterical, especially Farrell’s relentlessly sleazy manager.

The main cast is similarly uneven. While Sudeikis and Bateman both deliver a minor master class in how to make innocuous dialogue funny and funny dialogue hilarious, Charlie Day’s falsetto starts off as entertaining and quickly becomes more and more irritating as the film goes on. By the end, one wonders why anyone would be friends with Day’s character, much less place their legal fates in his hands.

Beyond an overwhelming desire to kill their bosses, Bateman’s and Sudeikis’ characters lack definition or personality. While Day is saddled with a fiance, she barely factors into the film or his character. The bosses are similarly underdeveloped, but Spacey and his cohorts milk their one-note characters, hitting the same joke over and over and somehow keeping it funny.

“Horrible Bosses” is a film with a bold, enticingly dark premise, but it also forgot to build intriguing characters around that premise. While it’s often hilarious, it’s a film that feels rushed and whose characters are barely more than plot devices. Nonetheless, the sheer comedic mass of its cast elevates “Horrible Bosses” into just north of mediocre, but still funny enough to recommend.