★ ★ ½
Five years after the crude but successful Hot Tub Time Machine, director Steve Pink returns with a sequel. Fans of the “idiots with a time machine” concept won’t be disappointed; neither will revelers in gross-out humor and obscene jokes. While there are plenty of laughs to keep the viewer awake, a less-than-stellar story by screenwriter Josh Heald often fumbles over itself.
If you had seen a trailer for Hot Tub Time Machine 2, you’d come away thinking that the sequel would be a gallivanting trip through time. This is not the case at all. Hot Tub 2 picks up after the events of the first film, with Lou Dorchen (Rob Corddry) and Nick Webber (Craig Robinson) as millionaires profiting from their time-travelling exploitation of technology and entertainment from the future. The insufferable Lou, an egomaniac in the first film, is only worse now that he’s rich and famous. His comeuppance arrives early in Hot Tub 2 at a party in his honor, in the form of a shotgun blast to the genitals. Nick and Jacob (Clark Duke) quickly try to save Lou’s life by dragging him into the titular time-travel device. However, they’re catapulted 10 years into the future to 2025, the point in time where they determine that Lou’s attempted killer must have come from. The rest of the film stays in this timeline, as the gang of buffoons try to track down the unknown assassin before future-Lou disappears—an obvious nod to Back to the Future.
Noticeably missing from the sequel is John Cusack, who sits this one out. While his absence isn’t catastrophic to the film, it lends far too much story and face-time for the blundering Corddry. His character is so unlikeable that Corddry himself becomes somewhat of a nuisance to the movie. He’s unable to carry the lead load himself, but luckily is bailed out by his support. In particular, the addition of Adam Scott in the 2025 timeline as Cusack’s character’s son is a game-saver. Scott excels in his deadpan delivery of the nerdy and sheltered Adam Yates Jr.
In order for a sequel of such little substance to work, the dialogue and onscreen banter has to feel natural. Hot Tub 2 works best when the leads are riffing off each other, rehashing their gags from the first film. The movie comes to a total stop at times of sentiment; interactions between Duke and his biological father (as we learned in the first film) Corddry are stuffy to say the least. The real treasure of this franchise is Craig Robinson. Almost every time he delivers a line (which is not nearly frequent enough) it’s a killer. Robinson and Scott’s time together give the film life, and just enough of it to stay afloat.
Hot Tub 2 will get slammed for its lowbrow humor, misogynistic tendencies, and a clear hint of homophobia—and perhaps rightfully so. Steve Pink didn’t add to the original with this sequel in terms of story depth or character development, but come on, the film is called Hot Tub Time Machine 2. Sometimes it’s nice to not have to think about the ramifications of space and time for an hour and a half.