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Out in Theaters: HORRIBLE BOSSES 2

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A comedy sequel that slam-dunks over its predecessor, Horrible Bosses 2 is a sardonic, infantile laugh riot. Joke for joke, it’s more meaty than the 2011 original. The characters are churned up and the window dressings turned down. This has one and only one purpose: to make you laugh.

After decidedly not killing their bosses, Nick, Kurt and Dale have since gone into business for themselves, inventing a product known as the “Shower Buddy.” Their sudsy SkyMall idea lands them a spot on the nightly news (an appearance they accidentally botch with silhouetted sexual references) but not before production baron Bert Hanson (Christoph Waltz) notices opportunity.

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After ordering thousands of units of the American made all-in-one shower companion, Hanson pulls the plug on NickKurtDale.com (don’t try to say it fast) assuming the company will collapse and he can buy their already manufactured goods for pennies on the dollar. Considering their background in amateur crime, the sloppy trio decide to take matters into their own hands and respond with a kidnapping scheme to bargain Hanson’s son Rex (Chris Pine) to cover their lost capital. Hilarity ensues.

Reviewing comedy is a fickle game and one given over largely to subjectivity but for me, the comedy here really works, improving on a formula that looked better on paper than it actually was the first time around. Horrible Bosses 2 delivers on that promise of unabashed retardation. The first film was a half rack of ribs, occasionally tasty but built on chalky bones, while this is pure brisket; a tenderer cut that trims the fat and leaves just the jokes. The dead air has been filled with sweat, nicknames, non-sequitor and flagrant exaggeration. The archetypes are racketed up well past the point of normalcy and from Kevin Spacey‘s left ear diamond earring to Jamie Foxx‘s Motherfucker Jones penchant for chewing on slurpee straws to Charlie Day‘s perma-coked out mania, the energy of the group is solidified in a sense of juvenile glee nothing short of infectious.

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The main triptych were happy-go-lucky, fairly straight-laced dudes with a little bit of quirk but now their idiosyrnacies have been turned up to cable-network extreme. Jason Bateman is even more of a cowardly, self-righteous asshole. Jason Sudeikis drips numbness while pumping out a stream of off-putting sexual energy. Charlie Day is more, well, Charlie Dayish; his nervous energy and sweaty antics broadcast in all its kooky crack-baby glory. It’s the noisy, chaotic, dummy humor of It’s Always Sunny; the calculated misanthropy of dumb dudes doing dumb deeds.

Yes, Jennifer Aniston and her carnal explicitness busted my gut. Pine proved (yet again) that maybe comedy is what he was made for. And Day, Bateman and Sudeikis are all right on the money. It was a solution of funny people doing funny things and it had me laughing the whole way through. That’s not to say that what worked for me will necessarily work for you though. In fact, many will likely be put off by Horrible Bosses 2‘s short-order comedy. For me though, it’s one of the best studio comedies of the year; a hearty step up from their first outing and a nearly laugh a minute affair. Bring on number three. 

B

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Out in Theaters: THE LEGO MOVIE

“The Lego Movie”
Directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller
Starring Chris Pratt, Morgan Freeman, Will Arnett, Elizabeth Banks, Charlie Day, Liam Neeson, Nick Offerman, Alison Brie
Animation, Action, Comedy
100 Mins
PG

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Dripping with commercial appeal and name brand recognition, The Lego Movie could have easily joined the ranks of previous toy-turned-tale blockbusters. With the likes of Transformers and Battleship, studios have established a shady history of leaning on bankable properties to churn out flimsy showcases that add up to little more than an audio assault and visual fireworks, a cheap attempt to capitalize on audience familiarity and earn a quick buck. While those movies sifted our childlike glee through a filter of blue-toned, sensory bombardment, attempting to twist our arms in hopes of nostalgic forgiveness and financial reward, The Lego Movie goes the completely opposite route and awards those hankering to see their favorite childhood toys onscreen with a gleefully told story of epic Lego magnitude. Irreverent and hyper-self-aware, this adaptation takes everything we loved about the buildable blocks and seamlessly weaves it into a startlingly awesome and fully engaging narrative about creativity, imagination and encouragement, resulting in the best animated movie since 2010’s Toy Story 3.

At the center of the Legoverse, lovable goof Chris Pratt voices Emett, a run-of-the-mill construction worker figure who tries his darnedest to assimilate with the uber-chipper Lego society marching in perfect formation around him. In Emett’s city, uniformity is the bee’s knees. Everyone loves the same song (“Everything is Awesome”), watches the same TV show (“Where Are My Pants?”) and has the same water cooler conversations day in and day out.

It’s a society structured around structure, a sociopolitical climate that’s laid out with instruction booklets (*wink*) and enforced with hive mind mentality. And no matter how hard Emett tries to fit in, he’s just so extraordinarily ordinary that people hardly remember his face (well that may be the result of everyone’s face being composed of same shade of iconic yellow, plastered with a smile and bulbous black eyes.) So when Emett stumbles upon a coveted brick and is mistakenly identified as “The Special”, he goes along with it. He allows new ally Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) to believe that he’s a world class master builder because it’s the first time anyone has ever recognized potential in him.

Behind the scenes, President Business (a perfectly wacky Will Ferrell) secretly runs the show, cunningly steering the fate of the city’s inhabitants, hell bent on a maniacal scheme to unleash the ghastly Kragle, a weapon so devastating that it will forever glue the world into its proper place With Bad Cop (Liam Neeson) at his every beck and call, Business is out to destroy creativity as well as Emmet, the supposed harbinger of prophecy, and his fellowship of master builders.

Backed by enough voice cameos to keep you wracking your brain and a solid heap of characters pulled in from nearly every imaginable franchise, Lego is overflowing with talent. You’ll find the likes of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia‘s Charlie Day as an 80’s astronaut, Arrested Development‘s Will Arnett as Batman, Will Forte, Jonah Hill, Nick Offerman, Cobie Smulders, Channing Tatum, Jake Johnson and even Morgan Freeman‘s sultry tenor all giving rock solid voice performances that aid the laughing stock The Lego Movie becomes.

With Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the creative minds behind the first Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and the recently rebooted and well-received 21 Jump Street, at the helm, the project has just as much focus placed on the comedy as the storyline and stylish animation. Accordingly, the jokes fly a mile a minute.

But beneath it all is a genuine heartbeat. Emett’s journey is a common hero’s quest but his goofy antics and self-sacrificing ways provide an emotional basis for our ongoing investment in his arc. Driving home a message that everyone’s special may be a little pear-shaped in the age of the Great Recession but there’s something intentionally ironic behind all the hackneyed encouragement. Maybe The Lego Movie would like to tell us we’re all special but that’s a message that only lingers on the surface. Beneath that, Lord and Miller reach out and say “We know that’s not true, but that’s still cool.”

The film is loaded with irreverent, double entendre moments like this, a self-aware meta angle that makes the experience just as much rewarding for adults as it is for kids. The screenwriting duo even take potshots at the lesser regarded Lego properties to great comic effect. Rarely taking a break from tongue-in-cheek mockery of Business, who for all intents is a place holding satire of the very company footing the bill for this movie, their voice is strangely misaligned with the lousy money-grubbing staples of the industry. They preach thinking outside the box while the inevitable accompanying merchandise will deal in exactly this kind of box-set salesmanship. Just eat up that irony.

Going back to the kids, those sugar-stuffed Ritalinites are sure to just eat this up as the partially CGI, partially stop-motion visual style is mind-boggling enough to make even a surly old man’s jaw drop much less a wide-eyed youngster. Cross the delectable ratio of genuine belly laughs with the crafty visual palette and Miller and Lord deserve a hearty pat on the back. Congratulations guys, you’ve made the best animated film in years.

A-

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HORRIBLE BOSSES 2 Nabs Chris Pine and Christoph Waltz

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Is Hollywood so unimaginative that it has to rehash an idea as simple as Horrible Bosses? Even after lackluster numbers, it appears that the 2011 comedy will attempt to flower into a franchise after all.  Confirmed to play a new horrible boss/father-son duo are Chris Pine and Christoph Waltz. Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, and Jason Sudeikis will reprise their roles as the extremely unlucky guys who just can’t seem to find a good boss, a feat proven tricky when you’ve attempted to murder your last bosses.

What else is there to say about Christoph Waltz? He can do no wrong. One can imagine that he is swimming in scripts for better movies than this, so it must be okay. Right? Chris Pine has also proven to be pretty solid talent lately and it will be interesting to see how he handles a comedic role. The few comedic moments in the new Star Trek films were well executed by him.

Hopefully they don’t go the route taken by Hangover 2 and do the exact plot again. However, it’s difficult to imagine a much broader scope when the film is called Horrible Bosses. You pretty much know what you are in for.

I am currently working on the third film in the series, where the protagonists work in a Chinese factory and commit suicide after 2 hours of existential pondering and hopelessness. At least that’d be something new.

Horrible Bosses 2 is directed by Sean Anders and stars Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, Charlie Day, Chris Pine and Christoph Waltz. It hits theaters on November 28, 2014.