"Horrible Bosses 2" (R) 2 1/2 stars (out of four)
While "Horrible Bosses 2" is not horrible movie, it's not great, either. It's an above average to good movie, and only on occasion comes close to capturing the spirit of the 2011 original.
After surviving the merciless torment from their horrible bosses from the first movie, "Horrible Bosses 2" finds Nick (Jason Bateman), Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) and Dale (Charlie Day) as their own bosses after they form a start-up business. The idea men are confident with their debut invention called the Shower Buddy, and especially feel like they're going to clean up when business magnate Bert Hanson (a delightfully slimy Christoph Waltz) agrees to finance the manufacturing of the product for exclusive distribution.
Having accumulated $500,000 in manufacturing costs, Nick, Kurt and Dale are left deep in debt when Bert, who they discover is a cut-throat businessman, abruptly calls off the deal. Facing financial ruin without any legal recourse, the trio concocts a plan to kidnap Bert's irresponsible son, Rex (the always engaging Chris Pine), and hold him for $500,000 as a way to get their money back. The stakes are raised even higher, though, when Rex – who can't stand his dad – suggests jacking up the ransom fee to $5 million so he can keep a cut of the money for himself.
While co-writer and director Sean Anders smartly avoids a repeat of the first movie's plot, "Horrible Bosses 2" encounters its share of new problems. First and foremost, the movie is hopelessly predictable, and as it drags on to its inevitable turn of events, it's only saved the likeability of its talented ensemble cast.
Standouts include the always chummy Bateman, whose big-screen good guy persona never grows old; Aniston, who delivers shockingly crude one-liners one after the other with incredible ease; and Jamie Foxx, who returns and giddily delivers a humorous performance as Dale, Kurt and Dale's crime consultant, Mother (expletive) Jones. Kevin Spacey is also back in a laugh-out-loud cameo as Dale's sadistic ex-boss, Dave, who is now behind bars for his misdeeds. The screen explodes every time Spacey appears, which as it turns out, isn't nearly enough.
While Sudeikis aptly fits the bill as the smarmy Kurt, "Horrible Bosses 2" takes a deep dive with Day, whose screeching, lame-brained character, Dale, wears out his welcome in a big hurry. While Day was good in the first "Bosses," for some reason Anders felt there was an advantage by saddling the "Always Sunny in Philadelphia" star with the film's stupidest actions – actions, by the time the movie ends, that become nearly intolerable. The boss of the next "Horrible" movie, if there is one, is going to have think about cutting loose some of these sorry liabilities if this franchise is going to have any more good fortune.
"The Penguins of Madagascar" (PG) 3 1/2 stars (out of four)
There's no need for a zebra, a lion, singing lemurs and any other zoo animals when you have "The Penguins of Madagascar" -- a funny and clever spin-off of the first three "Madagascar" movies and subsequent "Penguins" TV series.
Set up as an adventurous superspy thriller, "Penguins" centers on the wiseguy team of four flat-footed creatures that desperately try to stop a devious plot by a jealous octopus, Dave (voice of John Malkovich), to rob all penguins of their irresistible cuteness. Skyrocketing star Benedict Cumberbatch joins the cast and brings a James Bond-feel to his role as a wolf who leads an elite team of spies on the hunt for the eight-tentacled villain, but ultimately it's the penguins Kowalski (Chris Miller), Skipper (Tom McGrath), Rico (Conrad Vernon) and Private (Christopher Knights) who are in complete command of the movie.
Filled with fast action, fun sight gags and razor-sharp dialogue from start to finish, "Penguins" works for audiences of all ages looking for a cool family adventure.
"Foxcatcher" (R) 3 stars (out of four)
Funnyman Steve Carell delivers a dramatic breakthrough performance as real-life millionaire philanthropist John du Pont in "Foxcatcher," a fascinating look into du Pont's fatal obsession with Olympic wrestler brothers Mark and David Schultz prior to the 1988 games in Seoul, South Korea.
Carell, who dabbled with drama in such gems as "Little Miss Sunshine," "Dan in Real Life" and "The Way, Way Back," completely disappears into du Pont -- a creepy heir to the du Pont Chemical Company fortune. A man with unwavering patriotism and yearning for personal and US Olympic glory, du Pont casts an odd spell over Mark (Channing Tatum), and eventually recruits David (Mark Ruffalo) to help start an amateur wrestling training facility at his Foxcatcher Farm estate in Pennsylvania.
While the tragic outcome of "Foxcatcher" is widely known, writer-director Bennett Miller ("Capote," "Moneyball") masterfully uses Carell's uneasy performance to keep audiences teetering on the edge. Whether or not viewers know the outcome of the du Pont-Schultz story, it's not hard to be fascinated by the bizarre relationship du Pont had with the brothers, which eventually devolved into both mental and physical abuse.
Set mostly in the damp surroundings of rural Pennsylvania, Miller also creates a constant foreshadowing of dread in "Foxcatcher," which sometimes becomes belaboring as the film approaches its inevitable conclusion as the two-hour, 15-minute movie enters its final act. It's a depressing feeling waiting and knowing that something very bad is going happen, but not exactly when.
While "Foxcatcher" will likely be vying for Oscar gold in most major categories, there's no doubt Carell is a frontrunner for a Best Supporting Actor nomination. The role is easily the best thing he's ever done.
Tim Lammers is a veteran entertainment reporter and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association, and annually votes on the Critics Choice Movie Awards. Locally, he reviews films for BringMeTheNews, “KARE 11 News at 11” and various Minnesota radio stations.