Hot Tub Time Machine was surprisingly clever raunchy comedy, but to paraphrase one of the characters in Hot Tub Time Machine 2, “We have this great power and we’re just a bunch of screw ups.” It is almost as if screenwriter Josh Heald and director Steve Pink were critiquing their own movie…
The first installment, a scatological comedy that was also genuinely witty and, at times, surprisingly sweet, went back to the 1980s and parodied that decade’s teen genre, was also aided immensely by the presence of John Cusack. Having Cusack in the cast made the satire all the sweeter as he was no stranger to the 80s teen comedy.
Cusack, however, was not asked back, which is curious, since he was the lead of the original and the emotional center of that film. Rob Corddry, as the crude Lou, was the comic scene stealer in what was his breakout movie. Perhaps, Heald and Pink figured, based on the character’s popularity, Corddry’s role should be upgraded.
In the first film, Lou was vulgar and obscene, but also sympathetic. By the end, he became a better, albeit still crass, person. None of that matters in the sequel, which makes Lou an unbearable, completely oblivious jerk.
Given the presence of a time machine as a plot device, Hot Tub Time Machine 2 could go anywhere, or rather any-when. Instead, the story goes to the future with the cast trying to prevent Lou from being murdered in the present. Lou is still alive in the future because the killer is from the future. Or the future is an alternate timeline. Or something.
The remaining returning cast members include Lou’s best friend, Nick (Craig Robinson) and his son, Jacob (Clark Duke). Adam Scott is brought in to play the son of Cusack’s character. Scott is a funny actor, but feels like an unnecessary placeholder. Although he factors into the plot, Scott adds little in terms of laughs or character.
Sequels are always tricky. Comedy sequels seem to be particularly difficult as the filmmakers, in trying to replicate a successful formula, tend to simply restate the original jokes bigger and louder instead of writing new material.
The original had a joke in which Lou and Nick are forced into a sexual encounter. This scene is certainly lewd, but in context — a bet gone terribly wrong — is funny. It was also only a few minutes long. The sequel replicates this joke, but on a larger scale, and for about 15 minutes of uncomfortable, unfunny screen time.
There are some witty ideas and throwaway gags that are amusing. In an alternate timeline, the show “60 Minutes” has become “59 Minutes.” There’s also a great recurring bit in the future about self-driving cars that are sentient beings with emotions. When Lou offends one, it develops a death wish for him. The jokes involving the cars are the funniest thing in the movie and the concept should have been further expanded.
In the last scene, the possibility of exploring multiple alternate universes is introduced. Why this wasn’t the plot is beyond me. The closing credits show the characters inserted into various points in history and, again, is a funnier idea than the film’s actual plot.
The working title of the movie was Hot Tub Time Machine 3: Because Hot Tub Time Machine 2 Hasn’t Happened Yet. If only that were true.