Five years ago, the first Hot Tub Time Machine bombed at the box office but became a sleeper hit on cable and home video. The film explored something most every 30-something has thought about: what would you change if you could relive your youth again? It was an over-the-top, raunchy film grounded by relaxed straight-man John Cusack and the always-cool Lizza Caplan. Cusack declined to appear in Hot Tub Time Machine 2, leaving a gaping, substantial hole in the cast. What we’re left with are three insufferable creeps and Adam Scott, who plays Cusack’s future son and the butt of every joke in the film.
While the first movie had a layer of drama and charm alongside its raunchiness, this one is just crude and vapid. It has nothing to offer but three jerks going to the future and being jerks. When they can’t drop a pop culture reference (which they do relentlessly) they say “fuck.” When they can’t insert a dick joke they say “fuck.” It’s lowest common denominator humor at its most painfully uncreative. Unless you’re wicked into gay-panic jokes and watching a litany of kaleidoscopic party montages set to hip-hop (there are at least four in the film). Then, by all means, run to theaters.
The first 30 minutes are a barrage of pop culture parodies showing how the gang has profited off of stealing others’ ideas from the past. There’s some stuff from the first film’s tail end: how Lou (Rob Corrdry) invented “Lougle” and is the lead singer of Mötley Lou. Craig Robinson has ripped off every hit single he can remember, delivering his own rendition of chart-toppers like Lisa Loeb’s “Stay (I Missed You).” It’s funny for a minute then the beating of the dead horse begins. I think Robinson is a brilliant comic and he certainly gets the most laughs this time around. Clarke Duke is living off of Lou’s wealth and forced to act as his daddy’s butler. He gets to shine way more this time around than in the first.
The film focuses on Corrdry, who plays Lou with as much loud, aggressive vehemence as possible. It takes a certain kind of virtuosity to pull this type of despicable character off and not make the audience completely hate you (Danny McBride as Kenny Powers comes to mind). He’s too appalling to be amusing.
At one of his own self-aggrandizing parties, Corrdry is shot in the dick and Robinson and Duke use the hot tub to try and find his killer. Things go wrong and they accidentally travel 10 years into the future.
There are some decent jokes about the world of 2025, many of them predictable, some of them low-key (a hospital named after St. Nicolas Cage). Budgetary constraints didn’t allow for a glossy sci-fi world of the future, so the most futuristic thing is a self-driving smartcar and a portable thing to stick your dick into. The gang parties and does a lot of drugs and runs into Scott, and then they do more drugs. I figured Scott would be the straight-man this time around. Instead he’s the doormat of the group, the target of a string of abuses that includes virtual anal rape. Why, Adam Scott, why?
If you’re wondering about the female characters, there’s no replacement for Lizzy Caplan. All the women here are nags or topless nags. Gillian Jacobs (Community) gets a nice turn as Scott’s wife, but then after hanging around these knuckleheads long enough she too devolves into a shallow, booze-swigging goof. It’s a thankless role and she’s severely underused in the film.
I’m not a big fan of the first one but even I can’t deny that it had its moments (mostly Crispin Glover moments, but still, they were there). The sequel has none. Its set pieces are trying so hard to offend and be crude that it’s embarrassing to watch at times. It wants to be stupid-smart but is consistently stupid-stupid. Apart from a few chuckles, Hot Tub Time Machine 2 is an uninspired, needless sequel that tarnishes whatever comedy cred the original possessed.