The primary charm of Hot Tub Time Machine was seeing John Cusack running around in the '80s again. That was the main reason for the film existing, and the main reason it was funny.
The secondary charm was the antics of Rob Corddry as Lou, the suicidal heavy metal fan who had to deal with his bullied past. The film was the first to really highlight Corddry’s talents, and he kicked some ass.
Now comes Hot Tub Time Machine 2, sans Cusack, with Corddry taking the lead. The movie sort of stinks, but I’m not putting all of the blame on Corddry.
Movie sequels often prove to be unnecessary, and this one would be a king of the unnecessary sequels. First off, without Cusack, we’re missing the main reason for the franchise’s existence, the glue that held it all together. Cusack provided a nice anchor for the madness going on around him. Corddry and his cohorts (Craig Robinson as Nick and Clark Duke as Jacob) just seem to be running around like mad in this movie, with no sense of purpose.
The film starts in the present, with Lou living the rich life because he stole the idea for the internet and Nick living it up because he’s stealing everybody’s songs (most notably Lisa Loeb's). Lou winds up taking a shotgun to the dick and, as things turn out, this isn’t a very funny joke. Lou takes a rather bloody blast that will have the male portion of the audience doing stuff other than laughing.
To save Lou’s life, Nick and Jacob jump into the hot tub again (after an awkward moment with a frazzled Chevy Chase), intent on traveling into the past to save Lou’s life. They wind up accidentally going into the future where things make little sense.
There’s a lot of nonsense about parallel universes and efforts to do clever twists on time travel. None of it works, and I found myself glazing over as the characters ran from one scenario to another, with Duke’s Jacob explaining the significance in the time travel continuum.
Who cares about the time travel stuff? Go to whatever time you’re traveling to, and then give the audience funny jokes. The first Hot Tub movie didn’t satisfy sci-fi geeks. It satisfied '80s film comedy geeks, people who love Better Off Dead and Say Anything. Since there are no 20-years-in-the-future comedy geeks, I guess this movie really doesn’t have an audience.
Instead of Cusack’s Adam, we get Adam’s son, Adam Jr., in the future, played by the ever reliable Adam Scott. Scott has the film’s best jokes, including a hallucinatory drug experience and an unfortunate game show situation. Still, he shows up deep into the movie in a film with no real sense of direction, so he’s fighting a losing battle.
Corddry gets some laughs here and there, but his jokes are mostly desperate and repeated ad nauseam. The same can be said for Robinson, who gets laughs early on, but those laughs wear thin the 17th time he tells the same joke. Duke doesn’t handle the graduation from fourth banana to third banana with much aplomb.
In truth, this film has no business being on the big screen. If you don’t have the dough to bring a major star back, but you still want to do a mediocre cash-in sequel, go ahead and make it with the secondary stars, but send the results straight to Netflix. This is not a major motion picture event. It’s a Thursday night “OK, What the Hell, I Got Nuthin’ to Do So I’ll Watch This Piece of Shit for a Laugh or Two” event.
When the closing credits are 10 times funnier than anything in your movie, you have a serious problem. Hot Tub Time Machine 2 should mark the end of a franchise, and the last time somebody tries to sequelize a John Cusack movie without John Cusack.