Note: this review is featured on the Phoenix Film Festival’s website.
Hot Tub Time Machine 2 opens with a nipple joke and closes with a dick joke. It’s quiet poetic, considering the asinine attempts on display of repeating the previous film’s successes to lesser, more vulgar degrees. While the original HTTM had a sense of nostalgia and a lighter comedic tone, the characters on display here are mostly repugnant and unlikable. By having Lou (Rob Corddry) take over as the main character of the film, the story is asked to navigate around a modern-day Caligula who has no likable traits or moral decency. So when we’re asked to view the film through his eyes and watch his character supposedly change, it’s off-putting and mostly uncomfortable. Yet the film’s biggest fault comes from its belief that every one of its jokes is amusing, including homophobic jokes and outdated references to scarcely watched shows like Fringe. The film just doesn’t have a clue as to how to spruce up its thin premise, falling into the trap of repeating its predecessor in almost every way. It’s unoriginal, mostly unfunny, and a huge misfire.
The film picks up after the events of the first film, with Lou (Rob Corddry) inventing his knock-off brand of Google and being considered one of the biggest tech geniuses in the world. He’s a billionaire, and his son, Jacob (Clark Duke), is the classic slacker of a rich father who doesn’t aim for all that much. Nick (Craig Robinson) is still churning out hit after hit ever since he introduced the world to “Let’s Get It Started,” the Black Eyed Peas song he passed off as his own. And Adam (John Cusack) is nowhere to be found, although they believe he may have time traveled for some unknown reason. Nonetheless, at a self-indulgent party that Lou throws, he gets fatally shot in a nether region and faces his mortality; what if the guys went back in time, though, and prevented Lou’s manhood from being destroyed? Lo and behold, they get black-out drunk (just like in the first film), Chevy Chase’s crazy hot tub operator makes them uncomfortable, and they land 10 years in the future.
What could strike as genius ends up falling flat in almost every way. The jokes don’t necessarily revolve around the future so much as more futuristic dick jokes. It’s woefully uninspired. The concept of sentient Smart Cars is genius and almost feels like it belongs in a smarter, more adept comedy than this one, since the gags used for it are pretty impressive. How Hot Tub Time Machine 2 attempts to make sense of itself might be the most frustrating part of it all: it throws around supposed logic of alternate universes but doesn’t seem to care about appealing to the audience. Instead, it treats the time travel as something that doesn’t really matter or shouldn’t be understood, even when they put a lot of effort into presenting the rules of the world. Adam Scott and Gillian Jacobs are the two new additions to the crew, and those apt comedic players are reduced to lifeless roles. It’s a bland film, not particularly offensive or awful. Just lazy and vapid.
Grade: ★½ (out of 5)