Time travel can be a tricky subject for a film to nail down, and it grows even tougher when it comes to a sequel. 2010’s Hot Tub Time Machine made it clear in its title the exact tone it was going to take with the material, but it still allowed for a very basic set of rules and a healthy supply of laughs. The less creatively titled Hot Tub Time Machine 2 is a big, sloppy step in the opposite direction.
Lou (Rob Corddry) is still riding high on his acquisition of other people’s ideas and successes and lives a lavish lifestyle with a trophy wife, a drug addiction and a butler. Jacob (Clark Duke) is a smart guy – aside from missing the fact that he’s his father’s butler – but he’s lost in Lou’s dick-shaped shadow. Nick (Craig Robinson) has followed Lou’s lead and made a successful career off of other people’s talents, but instead of “inventing” a search engine like Lougle he’s been “writing” hit songs.
The first film’s fourth friend, Adam (John Cusack), is only present in photographs.
When Lou’s shot in the crotch by a mysterious assassin the three friends retreat to the titular hot tub for a quick jaunt backwards, but instead the magical swirlie machine sends them ten years into the future. They realize the wannabe killer traveled to their present from this future so they set out to catch the perp with the help of Adam’s son, Adam (Adam Scott). Just go with it.
Does any of this make sense or even matter? Not at all. Time travel mechanics are left looser than a retired porn star’s vagina, and even as the script (from returning scribe Josh Heald) tries to play smart it only makes it clearer how indifferent it actually is to logic concerns. Because honestly, how do you beat Lisa Loeb to the punch by recording “Stay” in 2015 when she released it twenty years prior?
Time travel shenanigans aside there are two major issues keeping director Steve Pink’s follow-up to his own original from being another bubbly good time at the movies.
For a comedy, it’s shockingly devoid of real laughs. (Hell, it’s low on chuckles for a drama.) They repeat multiple gags from the first film, and while that’s typical for a comedy sequel they continually fall flat here. They also mistake movie references for jokes, you know, just like in The Terminator. There’s also a question of crassness, and while the expected sex, drugs and nudity are present there’s also a gag involving a future TV show (hosted by Christian Slater) that probably seemed edgy on the page but that feels horribly misguided on the screen. An attempt to make a rape joke out of it sure doesn’t help.
Second, and just as damaging, there’s no real lead protagonist here. Say what you will about Cusack’s choices over the past decade, but he makes for a grounded every man when he’s on his game. He was the straight man in the first film, the one reacting to jokes while providing the emotional story line amid the chaos, but the sequel has no such character or actor – all four of these guys (Corddry, Duke, Robinson, Scott) are fools we can’t connect with in the slightest.
Ridiculously, the film tries to fit the round Corddry into that square hole, and the result is a sad, unfunny and painful experience for everyone. Lou is a grating persona, the kind Corddry seems most comfortable playing, and there’s simply too much of him here. Not only is his aggressive cruelty turned to eleven here (again, that game show bit) but he’s also the character that the script wants us to ultimately care about. Corddry is a funny performer in general, but he’s not an actor you turn to for your heartfelt story line.
We’ll never know where the sequel would have gone had Cusack’s character returned, but while there’s no guarantee it would have been funny it’s a safe bet it would have benefited from having an actual actor in the lead role. Scott has the chops, but his character here is played as a doofus for no good reason.
It’s early, but Hot Tub Time Machine 2 has secured a healthy lead as the worst sequel of 2015. Your move Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2.
The Upside: A funny Jacuzzi joke
The Downside: Terribly unfunny; too much Rob Corddry; no real protagonist; excessively cruel; makes zero effort to create/maintain logic; repetitive jokes and gags
On the Side: Per John Cusack’s Twitter account he was never even asked back for this sequel.