Opening today, for your post-turkey-dinner diversion:
Horrible Bosses 2—Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day return as the three numbskulls who, back in the 2011 hit, plotted to murder their vile bosses, with wacky results. This time they’ve gone into business together, only to have an odious corporate bigshot (Christoph Waltz) bamboozle them into fresh ruin. So they switch from murder to kidnapping, this time targeting the bigshot’s equally odious but much stupider son (a pretty funny Chris Pine).
Bateman is the relatively sensible kvetcher of the group. Sudeikis is a buoyantly optimistic, easily distracted lecher, and Day is a well-meaning simpleton. The principal dynamic of the comedy is that they all jabber away at the same time, getting carried away with whatever imbecilic notion occurs to them, heedlessly blurting out inappropriateness ranging from white-boy racial anxiety to each other’s names over their walkie-talkies while they’re in the midst of a felony.
The absurdly twisting plot pulls in characters from the original—Jennifer Aniston as a sex-addicted dentist, Jamie Foxx as a “crime consultant” and Kevin Spacey as a venomous former boss—but the director, Sean Anders, and the gaggle of writers are not carry-overs from HB the First. I confess I missed that film, but on its own terms I can tell you that HB2 is raunchy, coarse, laborious and heavy-handed. Allowing for the context of the different styles of humor and filmmaking in their respective periods, it isn’t a bit less moronic than a Three Stooges short. But I can laugh at the Stooges, and I’d be lying if I tried to claim I didn’t laugh a fair amount at these three latter-day stooges as well.
Penguins of Madagascar—This spin-off from the Madgascar movies also made me laugh—quite a bit more, really. But unlike Horrible Bosses 2, this one earns its laughs from visual precision and imaginative verbal wit.
The stars are a quartet of zoo penguins who regard themselves as an elite covert team. They run afoul of a mad octopus (well voiced by John Malkovich) who, resentful of the popularity of penguins in menageries worldwide, has a nefarious scheme to abduct them all. The tale is organized like a Bond film, with an action-packed prologue and hilarious and exciting episodes in exotic locales ranging from Fort Knox to Venice to Rio to Shanghai. I was sort of disappointed that it didn’t have an expressionistic title sequence, set to a pop song.
It’s also possible that the finale, set in New York, is a penguin-feather-width longer and more involved than necessary. But this is quibbling—Penguins of Madagascar is one of the funnier films I’ve seen this year.