Despite its predictable array of serviceable gross-out gags and a few amusing, obscenity-laden quips, “Hot Tub Time Machine 2” suppresses its potential comedic output by offering not a single likeable character. Each persona vies for the award for most despicable; the absence of a moral compass lessens both the severity and the overall impact of the diverting vulgarities. Making the “Stifler” (of “American Pie” notoriety) of the group the main character, as well as the engine of the plot, rarely works in a harmonious fashion. Further surrounding him with increasingly juvenile companions and a trifling approach to time travel doubly draws attention to inadequacies instead of humor.
After re-writing their own histories in a hot tub time traveling accident, present day is looking up for longtime buddies Lou (Rob Corddry) and Nick (Craig Robinson). The former becomes a rock star with his band Motley Lou before attaining billionaire status by “inventing” the Internet with the “Lougle” company; the latter achieves pop icon prestige by plagiarizing celebrated music not yet invented by their true artists. However, riches and fame bring enemies; so when a mystery gunman shoots Lou at a lavish party, Nick and Lou’s son Jacob (Clark Duke) must once again use the hot tub time machine to travel into the past to stop the dastardly murder. But when the trio awakens to find themselves in the future, Lou must resist the urge to indulge in the excesses of 2025 while Jacob and Nick sift through the clues to save their friend’s life.
It’s the unrefined, exploitive, disgustingly irresponsible version of “Back to the Future” (with costuming appearing as a cross between “Amadeus” and “A Clockwork Orange”), but without even a hint of sincerity toward time travel or science-fiction. In fact, “Hot Tub Time Machine 2” goes so far as to completely contradict itself during Chevy Chase’s cameo – as a repairman giving rhetorical discourse about the magical contraption’s capabilities. With the inclusion of multiple timelines, there must be multiple versions of each character – yet this is entirely ignored during the course of the film (but not the theatrical trailers). As if to compensate for the noticeable dismissal of continuity and sensibility, numerous references to “The Terminator” and “Fringe” are joked about, suggesting that a shrewd approach to the material is hardly necessary. After all, this is a sequel to a movie about a whirlpool bath (but not Jacuzzi, as that’s trademarked) time portal.
Many scenes are comprised of each role attempting to crack repetitive one-liners, as if they’re competing for the funniest insult. It feels very improvised, like Eddie Murphy’s earlier works, with barrages of verbal low blows substituting a single, solid ridicule. The plot itself is comparably made up on the spot, changing locations and tossing in random gags unrelated to the story on a whim. It’s as if the movie was assembled from a dozen screenplays, with pieces of each one mixed together; however, the writers failed to excerpt humorous selections. “We can’t just fuck around!” insists Jacob, as their mission is made clear. But, expectedly, they nevertheless make time for partying and ruining the lives of others.
Meanwhile, the visuals work in the opposite direction, trying to squeeze laughs out of revolting extremes. But graphic nudity, cocaine use, brief bloodshed, psychotropic trips, virtual rape, and testicle drainage (among other things) are more uncomfortably foul than funny. And the obligatory redemptive components of preserving friendships, accepting responsibility, and acknowledging blessings belong in a different picture altogether, as this group of time travelers is intent only on living in the moment and taking advantage of a world they interact with like a video game.
– The Massie Twins (GoneWithTheTwins.com)