We all scoffed at the stupid title “Hot Tub Time Machine” in 2010, but it’s hard to deny the wacky time-travel comedy was an unabashedly silly and fun ride. So, there was a point where I’d have welcomed a second spin with its cast of screw-ups and “don’t think too hard, just enjoy” premise. But that was before I actually saw “Hot Tub Time Machine 2.”
The trailers promise a series of hilarious escapades, with stops in Colonial America, a trippy future with sentient cars and a 1960s where our heroes are (somehow) the Beatles. However, the plot focuses on the future, while regrettably retreading some bits from the first film.
Exploiting their knowledge from their previous adventure, Nick (Craig Robinson) and Lou (Rob Corddry) have become moguls on the backs of stolen ideas, from pop songs to tech advancements. But all that insane success hasn’t made them good husbands, and once again both are on the verge of losing their true loves. Lou’s son Jacob (Clark Duke) is the seething butler to his rock star/tech innovator/idiot dad. But it’s a mystery man in a tuxedo that kicks off the plot by shooting Lou in the crotch and spurring the trio to time travel to stop this deadly ordeal from occurring. For reasons not discussed, Adam (John Cusack) is miraculously MIA from all of this. In his place, we get Adam Scott as his future son Adam Jr.
That’s right. The hero of the previous film is gone, and with him the chemistry that made “Hot Tub Time Machine” work. Cusack was this group’s straight man, playing a flustered foil to the outlandish comedy delivered by Robinson, Corddry and Duke. In his absence, Duke gets repurposed, but a successful straight man he isn’t. Instead, he whines — mostly about how he’s the butt of jokes — and is burdened with tiresome exposition. Scott is thrown in as a dash of something new, a clean-cut, skirt-sporting, ever-chipper dweeb. Ultimately, it’s an odd foursome that never really clicks.
Directed by Steve Pink, “Hot Tub Time Machine 2” is stuffed with jokes, but far too many don’t land. It’s uneven, dominated by Robinson and Corddry’s seemingly improvised one-liners and running gags that feel more ragged than outrageous. Where the first film got mileage out of mocking the cringe-worthy trends of the 1980s, the future plotline isn’t mined for the same kind of snark or silliness. Future gags are limited to an iPad you can use like a Fleshlight, and TV moving to a much darker — but largely unexplored — brand of entertainment.
While the humor feels infuriatingly haphazard, the time-travel dynamics are painfully overwritten. The characters not only employ an actual timeline chart to clarify the ins and outs, but also repeat the details again and again to ensure the audience can follow how the events of the future affect their present/the past. Yet all of that is pointless when apparent paradoxes are blatantly ignored. For instance, how can Nick steal “Stay (I Missed You)” from Lisa Loeb in 2014 when she released that song in 1994? Don’t expect an explanation. All you get is a shot of sad Lisa Loeb as a cat wrangler.
There’s a sickening sensation that sets in as you watch a slapdash grab for cash and realize you’ve been had. That’s how I felt while “Hot Tub Time Machine 2” spooled out its careless wares of pop culture references, tired sex jokes (you know what’s weird, dudes doing it!) and casual boobs. This movie might be fine for a lazy Saturday on HBO, but no one should be purchasing a ticket for this tedious ride.
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