Jason Sudeikis

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.

Leslie Bibb and Jason Sudeikis play longtime friends planning a final hurrah in “A Good Old-Fashioned Orgy.” (Photo courtesy of Samuel Goldwyn Films)

Walking into “A Good Old Fashioned Orgy,” it’s perfectly logical to have low expectations. After all, it’s a low-key sex comedy packed with supporting players from other films, and it’s being dumped into the toxic pool of Labor Day weekend, arguably the worst weekend of the year for movies. (After all, neither of this weekend’s two major releases — “Shark Night 3D” and “Apollo 18” — were screened for critics, and the latter film has been bouncing around the calendar for what feels like years.) Surprisingly, “Orgy” capitalizes on the lowered expectations, going for a small-scale, refreshingly restrained comedy.

A group of thirty-something high school buddies led by Eric (Jason Sudeikis) survives from Monday to Friday by looking forward to weekly retreats to Eric’s summer home, where they engage in all sorts of debauchery. When Eric’s father decides to sell the house, Eric tries to convince his realtor (Leslie Bibb) to delay the sale until Labor Day weekend while the group brainstorms its traditional end-of-summer blowout. As one might expect from the title, Eric suggests an orgy.

A good chunk of the film is spent with the characters slowly convincing themselves that a group sex session is the best way to go out in style. The film is at its best in these moments, just letting the characters talk about themselves and bounce off each other. “Orgy” is a true ensemble piece, packed with comedic actors who’ve always been just left of the spotlight, and it gives each of them a moment to shine.

Each character has a distinct personality and quirks, and while they’re revealed through awkward, self-indulgent exposition a few times too many, it’s still refreshing to see such attention paid to character detail in a genre that often pointedly lacks it.

It helps that the film is often hilarious. Jason Sudeikis is the closest thing “Orgy” has to a star, and he handles it well, bringing a likable, witty energy to his role. His character’s friendship with Tyler Labine’s McCrudden is a bottomless well of laughs the film isn’t afraid to keep coming back to, especially in its climactic sequence, and Labine’s filthy, outrageous style goes well with Sudeikis’ laid-back sarcasm. Also good are Martin Starr’s indecisive musician, Lake Bell’s irritating psychiatrist, and Lindsay Sloane’s perpetually insecure Laura. Will Forte and Lucy Punch, the married couple that’s somewhat outgrown their group of friends, are under-used to a fault but their brief moments on screen are hilarious.

 Perhaps the most surprising thing about “A Good Old Fashioned Orgy” is its ending. It would have been easy for the film to cop out and let its characters decide they value their friendship too much to go through the film’s titular event. Thankfully, this is not the case, and the orgy scene alternates between hilarious and emotional, playing both sides of the court equally well. Even better is its wrap-up, which is (mostly) free of cliches one might expect from this type of movie.

 “A Good Old Fashioned Orgy” doesn’t try to be anything it isn’t, and it’s all the better for it. It’s not a film that tries too hard to be funny, letting the laughs come naturally from its very gifted cast and it doesn’t go for any emotional moments it hasn’t earned. It’s certainly not the funniest movie in theaters right now, but for audiences looking for a decent way to blow a few hours, you could certainly do worse.

Printed on Friday, September 2, 2011 as: 'Orgy' provides satisfying laughs.

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.