Within the last 30 days, Hollywood churned out two very different films exploring the nature of time travel. The crude and rude “Hot Tub Time Machine 2” revisits the story of four men using science to give themselves second chances. Like Marty McFly in “Back to the Future,” though, they risk wiping themselves out of existence.
Rob Corddry returns as Lou, the opportunist who uses future knowledge to rip off Google; “Lougle” has made him stinking rich. His buddy Nick (Craig Robinson) steals songs that haven’t been written yet, claiming they are original compositions. (A face-to-face chat with singer/songwriter Lisa Loeb in the new timeline is priceless.) Lou’s son Jacob (Clark Duke) is reduced to being his dad’s butler.
Watching “Hot Tube Time Machine 2” makes one wish that Paul Giamatti’s character from the future-themed “Paycheck” would show up to wipe out any memories of this cinematic disaster. The first film showed some originality, and John Cusack was on hand to give the project some credibility. (Cusack’s character is only referenced in photos and discussions in the sequel.)
“Project Almanac,” on the other hand, uses the “found footage” technique to tell a decent story. David Raskin (Jonny Weston), a young technical wizard, earns a scholarship to MIT, but he needs more money to cover collegiate expenses. David finds video footage of his 7th birthday party and, strangely enough, sees his current self in the background.
Rooting around in his deceased father’s things, David and his friends find a prototype time machine. Through explosive trial-and-error, the teens get the device working, refining their technique as the go along. At first, the gadget is a novelty, but they start exploiting the device for personal gain. (They are disappointed at only winning a few million in the lottery). Promises not to make solo trips back in time are quickly broken.
Though both films deal with the dangers of time travel, “Project Almanac” takes the material seriously. “Back to the Future” explored how a single action could create an entirely new timeline. David, for instance, goes back for a second shot at wooing a young lady, but he drastically changes world events in the process.
If there was real justice in the world, the kids from “Project Almanac” would go back in time and prevent the “Hot Tub Time Machine” sequel from ever being made. But that could conceivably free up money in the budget for something even worse.