Not that anybody is going to call idiot time travel comedy Hot Tub Time Machine “high art”, but compared to Hot Tub Time Machine 2 it may qualify. The first film arrived five years ago and was decent enough for a movie about a friggin’ hot tub time machine, meaning it was stupid and brainless fun with easy-to-like characters. Well, strike that, it had three easy to like characters played by John Cusack, Clarke Duke, and Craig Robinson. There was also Rob Corddry who played crude, loudmouth douche. Unfortunately, the sequel ditches Cusack and puts its focus squarely on Corddry while sinking the other characters to his detestable level.
Not that there were a ton of expectations for Hot Tub Time Machine 2, but however modest they were the film fails to meet them. The first movie was simple: a bunch of losers go back in time to the 1980s and change their lives for the better. The sequel picks up on that in the worst way possible by showing what creeps they all turned out to be. Granted, the first ten minutes are arguably the funniest in the entire movie as it begins with a montage of their amoral exploits. Nick (Robinson) has stolen every hit pop song he can think of and used it to become a huge star. Lou has used his knowledge to create “Lougle” (instead of Google) and to become the lead singer of Motley Lou. It’s stupid but fitting in the mold of the original movie, and the pop culture parodies are initially very funny, even if they aren’t all that clever. Nick’s cheesy rendition of Lisa Loeb’s irritating hit single “Stay” is a highlight, and so is her brief cameo as a lowly cat handler. As for Lou’s nerdy son Jacob (Duke), he’s content just being lazy and living off daddy’s wealth, although the simmering rivalry between the two continues. Where’s Adam? He’s off having some grand adventure after writing a sci-fi novel based on their previous adventures. Let’s just say Cusack is fortunate to only appear in flashbacks.
Lou is such a prick that somebody eventually shoots him right in the yam sack, and in an effort to save his life they dive back into the hot tub to go back in time. However, something goes wrong and they end up ten years in the future when things have changed dramatically. Lou is still alive and still a prick, only much older; Nick is a washed-up has-been with a terrible dance song reminiscent of Will Smith’s “Gettin’ Jiggy wit It”; and Jacob now has all the fame and glory he always hoped for. Does that make him the prime suspect? You won’t care much, and neither does screenwriter Josh Heald, who spends his time with uninspired gags about the future. The best he can come up with is that the future will have driver-less “smart cars” that may turn evil. Rather than trying to solve the mystery of Lou’s murder, the film mostly spends its time reminding us of better time travel movies like Terminator and Looper. The jokes are needlessly crude and excruciatingly long, like a nauseating game show scene in which Nick is forced to have sex with Adam Scott’s character, who turns out to be a pansy with knowledge that could help find Lou’s killer. Scott essentially takes on the Cusack straight-man, but other than a psychedelic drug scene doesn’t do anything memorable.
Corddry is, unfortunately, all too memorable as Lou who is such a scumbag that we don’t really care if his killer is ever found. It’s a wonder there aren’t more people trying to kill him. Robinson is hilarious at times but his character is more mean-spirited than before, and Duke is pretty much just a walking punchline. Needless to say little attention is paid to the time travel dynamics and whether anything actually makes sense, but some of the corners that are cut for plot simplicity are embarrassing. Directed without much style by the returning Steve Pink, Hot Tub Time Machine 2 wastes an opportunity to be a Bill & Ted-style romp through time, which is how it has been presented in promos for months. Instead it’s just another lazy and uninspired sequel and a complete waste of time.