Horrible Bosses 2: Bateman, Sudeikis and Day on board for sequel
There are some genres where sequels just make sense – sports movies for example. The team win the big game and then BAM a year later it’s the new season and they’re facing a host of new challenges to overcome through teamwork and mutual respect. War movies work well too – “Hooray we won the war! Wait, Kaizer Wilwho? Oh bloody hell lads put your helmets back on!” Comedy sequels, however, can be really hit and miss, and part of that is due to the situational nature of most farce-play.
The Hangover 2 – a film which was always going to be made after the phenomenal reception to the first movie – was criticized by many as an attempt to cash in without adding anything of note to the original, and referenced as a movie that begs the question – what SHOULD a sequel be? There are two types of good sequel. The fist is proactive; it expands upon the elements and themes of its predecessor, pushing them further, bending them without breaking them, and exploring themes further or ‘broader’ than the original. The themes from the first movie are still crucial, but they are represented through different means and in different ways. The Empire Strikes Back, Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom, and The Godfather Part 2 are all proactive sequels.
The second type is reactive, it responds to the elements and themes of the original, rebounding or countering the ideas to offer a new experience. Back to The Future 2, Aliens and Shrek 2 are all reactive sequels. It’s interesting, though not particularly relevant, that the first two Shrek movies carry the same essential message as the first two Back to the Future movies, only in reverse order. Back to the Future and Shrek 2 are about being who you really are, Back to the Future 2 and Shrek are about being the best person (or ogre) you can be.
Much like The Hangover, 2011’s Horrible Bosses featured an impressive cast. Blending popular big-hitters with a core trio mined from the growing pool of alternative pop-cult comedies that have arisen in the last decade (Arrested Development’s Jason Bateman, Saturday Night Live’s Jason Sudeikis, and It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia’s Charlie Day), the movie received fairly positive reviews from critics and fans alike. Three relatable dudes are stuck in not particularly pleasant jobs with bosses they despise for different reasons. They are quickly thrust into a Strangers on a Train situation, only with less menace and more comical face-pulling. Throw in some cringe humour, an excellent performance from Jamie Foxx as “murder consultant Dean ‘Muthafuckah’ Jones”, and keep the comic timing tight and you end up with a good, if not amazingly revolutionary movie.
Word of a sequel quickly spread, fuelled by an impressive gross of $209 million worldwide, only to fall to a whisper for the better part of two years But now there is hope on the horizon for fans of not-quite-family-friendly but not-too-experimental blockbuster comedies! The Hollywood Reporter has claimed that Bateman, Sudeikis and Day have all signed back on for the sequel, most likely to be named Horrible Bosses 2. There is, to date, no mention of the return of Jennifer Aniston, Colin Farrell or Kevin Spacey, the titular employers of the first movie, and although their roles were pivotal in the original, it’s not hard to imagine the sequel without them (after all the firs movie ended with one of them dead and the other facing a long time in prison).
Even if that wasn’t the case, would anyone really pay to see the exact same movie again? It seems equally likely that the leads will find themselves in a situation where three new bosses are the problem, and embark upon a similarly quasi-successful romp to free themselves. The movie industry loves a sequel. On paper it’s easy money. People will still go and watch a sequel, sometimes several, even if all signs point to the fact it’s an awful attempt to cash in (horror movies, I’m looking at you). But just how far is it possible to push the concept of a series before people grow tired of it?
I mentioned the two good types of sequel earlier, but there are also two bad types. The first is stagnant, it relies on the very same elements as the first and does little or nothing to expand them. The Hangover 2 was criticized heavily for this, yet just this month it was revealed that a third installment is to surface from the depths of bad taste later this year. The second is dissociated; it is not so much a sequel as a movie with the same characters and actors as its predecessor. Die Hard 2: Die Harder, is a good movie, but it’s a bad sequel. Until relatively late in the development process, it was potentially a standalone film, before the protagonist’s name was changed to John McClane and the words “Yippee-ki-yay” were liberally sprinkled all over it. Keep the plot the same each time, just filing off the details, and you end up with a pitiful franchise, milking every last drop from the core idea until all that’s left is a dry husk. Make severe changes, or pull a cheap bait-and-switch, and you end up with a film that needn’t be a sequel at all. And that’s where the problem arises.
How many changes of career will it take before the three Horrible Bosses boys wind up with not horrible bosses? How long before someone points out that they are the common denominator, that perhaps there are no horrible bosses, just three horrible employees. Similarly, how far can The Hangover ride the concept before you wind up with the dark horror of three juvenile men trapped in a never ending Kafkaesque nightmare of repeated amnesia in increasingly idyllic but unlikely locations? Bad idea for a film? No. Bad idea for a comedy? Probably.