While Seth Gordon passes directing duties over to Sean Anders, the cast remains mostly the same, as we catch up with Nick (Jason Bateman), Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) and Dale (Charlie Day), who have become entrepreneurs and started their own business. Thinking they’ve struck gold when Bert Hanson (Christoph Waltz) agrees to sell their product, it turns out their ineptitude and naivety presented the ruthless businessman a chance to screw them over. So, in a bid to seek revenge and save their company from going under, they decide to kidnap his erratic, and conceited son, Rex (Chris Pine).
Partly why this sequel doesn’t work – is because our three protagonists are all so imbecilic, it goes beyond the point of being endearing. In the first endeavour, their bosses, who consisted of Kevin Spacey and Jennifer Aniston (who both make cameo appearances in this picture, too) were nasty, pantomime villains, and we got the sense our three relatable, regular guys in the middle, were pushed to the limit thanks to a loathsome employer, and many people could resonate with that sentiment, albeit overstated in this instance. However now they’re just being ridiculous, and we can’t identify with them in the same way we once did. They agreed to a huge, million pound deal without signing anything. If anything they should be kidnapped on grounds of stupidity.
It also doesn’t help that Kurt is just becoming a sexual deviant who needs help, while the tone for many of this production’s jokes is somewhat questionable. There’s one sequence where Aniston’s Julia Harris fantasises over a rather graphic retelling of a sexual encounter between two teenage boys. It’s just wrong – and more importantly, not funny. Offensive jokes can be excused when they actually manage to provoke laughter from the audience. But in this picture, laughter becomes something of a side note. That being said, Bateman’s Nick is persistently the most well-crafted creation. He represents ‘normality’ and yet he’s equally as messed up as the other two. It’s an effective, tried and tested comedy trope. Be if Father Ted to Dougal, or Oliver Hardy to Stan Laurel – they give off the impression they’re in control of a situation, and yet they never are.
It’s not enough to save this production however, while if one more filmmaker uses that ‘effin How You Like Me Now? song over the top of a montage, expect to wake up to the news headline of ‘film critic throws himself through cinema screen’. Yet that’s not the biggest sin committed by this director, as we’re treated to a contrived, unfunny set of outtakes during the closing credits, in a last ditch, desperate attempt to generate some cheap laughter from the crowd. At least we can see how much fun they had making the film, it’s just a shame the same can’t be said for those of us watching.