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There's no avoiding Three Stooges comparisons when it comes to "Horrible Bosses 2."

And hey, "Horrible Bosses 2," that's a compliment.

Sure, this is a 21st-century movie. There's a strong sexual component that the Stooges would never have traded in. And the humor is more dialogue-driven than the face-slapping, noggin-bopping, eye-poking antics of old.

But basically this is a movie about three dimwits — one marginally less dim than the others — getting themselves in pickles that they somehow miraculously survive. And Charlie Day's nervous yelps, irrelevant asides and harebrained schemes are about as close to the spirit of Curly as modern times will abide.

Day again plays Dale Arbus, best buddy of comparatively level-headed Nick Hendricks (Jason Bateman) and easily distracted Kurt Buckman (Jason Sudeikis). In the first movie, each of them was saddled with a cruel employer. This time around, they themselves are the bosses, and they are indeed horrible at it.

Together they've invented a shower accessory — hilariously demonstrated early on in a live TV segment — and a wealthy corporate type named Bert Hanson (Christoph Waltz) has helped them get funding for a factory, despite the misgivings of his oily son, Rex (Chris Pine). It turns out, though, that Dad is equally oily and he easily steals the business from our idiot heroes once it's up and running.

Our guys then plot to kidnap Rex to get money from his father. They turn for advice to their underworld friend (Expletive) Jones (Jamie Foxx) and find themselves breaking into the office of Dale's old employer, the sex-addicted dentist Julia Harris (Jennifer Aniston), in search of laughing gas.

No such gas is needed as our boys bungle things every step of the way. It gets so bad that, eventually, Rex ends up helping them organize his own kidnapping so he can keep a cut of the ransom money.

The whole thing is ridiculous, but then it's supposed to be. Day is essentially the same wild-eyed doofus he plays perfectly on "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," Sudeikis brings sunny cluelessness to Kurt and Bateman keeps Nick just self-aware enough to realize how stupid everything he's involved in is.

The auxiliary characters — including an imprisoned Kevin Spacey — also provide plenty of laughs, especially Aniston's sexually focused dentist, the epitome of too much of a good thing. Sean Anders, who also had fun with Aniston and Sudeikis in "We're the Millers," co-wrote and directed the circus this time around and the result is a sequel at least as good as the original.

Between this and "Dumb and Dumber To" there's been quite a late-year surge toward flat-out silliness. Maybe it's something we need right now; maybe it's something we're always in need of. Sublime stupidity, the Stooges and all in their wake have repeatedly shown, is indeed timeless.

'Horrible Bosses 2'

GRADE: B

Rated R for strong crude sexual content and language throughout

Running time: 108 minutes

"Horrible Bosses 2" (R ) The spirit of the Three Stooges lives in the dimwit characters played by Charlie Day, Jason Bateman and Jason Sudeikis, who this time around try to arrange a kidnapping. Sublimely silly. (108 minutes) GRADE: B

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