"Hot Tub Time Machine
" was a silly '80s-infused throwback, hit-or-miss to be sure, but charming on occasion and generally diverting. Though it tended toward the bawdy and prurient, director Steve Pink and writer Josh Heald brought enthusiasm to a premise that was as dumb as it sounded and a script that never quite lived up to its potential. A sleeper hit in theaters and a success on home video, the film has now received a distaff, low-rent follow-up that seemingly no one asked for. Pink and Heald are back, as are most of the original cast members (minus, very oddly, headlining star John Cusack), but whatever magic its predecessor
held, it has been entirely vanquished by the mind-numbingly desperate "Hot Tub Time Machine 2." Any way one spins it, this is a bad movie. It's cheap-looking. It's asinine. It's dull. It's thoroughly unsatisfying. And, at 93 minutes, the proceedings earn a whopping two laughs tucked inside a tidal wave of misery.
In 2010, best friends Lou Dorchen (Rob Corddry), Nick Webber (Craig Robinson) and Adam Yates (John Cusack) found themselves traveling back in time with Lou's grown son, Jacob (Clark Duke), to relive a raucous ski weekend from 1986. When they returned to the present, the space-time continuum had altered their realities. Five years later, Lou is a hard-rock-superstar-turned-billionaire-Internet-mogul (the lead singer of Mötley Lüe and now the creator and CEO of Lougle). Nick is a multi-platinum recording artist in his own right who has swooped in to steal hit songs before their would-be artists could write them. Jacob is floundering and directionless, treated by Lou as a servant at his parents' mansion. As for Adam, well, he's apparently away on an "experiential journey" and glimpsed only in photographs. When Lou is mortally shot in the penis by a mystery assailant, Nick and Jacob pull him into the stolen hot tub time machine he is hiding in his home to travel to the past and stop this tragedy from happening. Instead, the trio find themselves in 2025, a future existence from which they come to suspect Lou's murderer came. Also joining in their search: Adam Yates-Stedmeyer (Adam Scott), Adam's estranged son who hopes to find the dad he never met so that he can invite him to his impending wedding.
With John Cusack, "Hot Tub Time Machine 2" would still be dismal, but at least his participation would have been an anchoring force to the over-the-top characters and shenanigans around him. Without the actor (who reportedly was not invited back), the film has been stripped of its only reason for existing. Made on a $14-million budgeta fraction of what the first one costand appearing even chintzier than that, the film reeks of a direct-to-video feel, right down to every single exterior shot looking like either a studio back alley or CG-enhanced greenscreen. Even worse than its aesthetic ugliness is a plot that gets the ball rolling with an unpleasantly gory crotch mutilation and then has nowhere to go from there. The motivating factor of trying to find Lou's killer is strong enough, but with Lou stupidly unconcerned by his fatehe would rather go to a strip cluband the rest of the protagonists barely any more focused, the narrative turns into a series of monotonous, ill-conceived skits. After Adam Jr. tags along to find his dad, this plot point is instantly forgotten about in lieu of him tripping out on psychotropic drugs. There is copious puking, semen to the face, enough recreational cocaine use to make "Boogie Nights" blush, and a 10-minute scene dedicated to the terrorthe absolute terror
of two men engaging in sexual contact. This latter example of wearying gay panic is misguided on a level only "The Wedding Ringer
" has been able to exceed thus far in 2015, but it also features the movie's single inspired element: Christian Slater's (2013's "Stranded
") spirited performance as an unapologetic game show host of the future.
Watching Rob Corddry (2014's "Sex Tape
"), Craig Robinson (2013's "This Is the End
"), Clark Duke (2013's "Kick-Ass 2
") and Adam Scott (2013's "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
") try their hardest only to still end up floundering in a cesspool of terrible writing is the diametric opposite of fun. Corddry has said in interviews that this sequel was a labor of love for all involved, which leads one to fear what an actual labor of hate might look like. At the mercy of shoddy material and equally shoddy production values, the actors wave their arms and screw up their faces in an attempt to jazz things up. Instead, they only make their characters even more grating, a group of irresponsible men-children who are concerned about no one but themselves and deserve neither success nor love.
"Hot Tub Time Machine 2" is so original in its vision of the future that there is even a sight gag with a "Back to the Future Part II"-style hoverboardhar, har! What there isn't is any semblance of scope or dignity to what Steve Pink has delivered, the director misplacing the earlier picture
's goofy, sometimes raunchy good nature for a tone that is plain idiotic, mean-spirited, and casually misogynistic. Don't be fooled by the deceptively upbeat, earnest denouement, either; it is promptly followed by an out-of-left-field "twist" ending that not only makes no sense, but sends things off on a dark, vile note that destroys all the momentary good will just built up. If John Cusack ever happens to see "Hot Tub Time Machine 2," the relief he feels knowing that he stayed far, far away from this dud of a project shall be paramount.