Mark Reviews Movies

Hot Tub Time Machine 2


1  Stars (out of 4)

Director: Steve Pink

Cast: Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson, Clark Duke, Adam Scott, Gillian Jacobs, Chevy Chase

MPAA Rating: R (for crude sexual content and language throughout, graphic nudity, drug use and some violence)

Running Time: 1:33

Release Date: 2/20/15

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Review by Mark Dujsik | February 19, 2015

The original Hot Tub Time Machine was bawdy, gross, immature, and silly, but the film also had a heart in the form of a group of characters who realize their lives peaked about 20 years ago. They started off as man-children but developed, thanks to a hot tub that allowed them to travel back in time, confront their errors, and change their ways. Somewhere in between the time of the characters' transitions and the start of Hot Tub Time Machine 2, someone or something must have pressed the reset button. Here, the guys are pretty much up to their old ways. Because of the alterations to their personal lives that they made in the first movie, they have the means to come up with new methods to go about their old ways.

The most disappointing reversion is Lou (Rob Corddry), who seemed to make some kind of breakthrough after two averted suicide attempts in the first film. Beneath all of his chemical dependence and off-color gusto, he was just a sad, lonely guy. One may recall that, at the end of the original film, the changes to history made Lou into a rock star who became a technology mogul.

That's where the sequel begins, with all of the modifications to the timeline solidified. Whatever realization Lou may have had about his life is gone. He's still an alcoholic and a drug addict, but now he gets to flaunt his detrimental behavior by running his company into the ground and prominently displaying a portrait of him having sex with a tiger for all to see as they enter his mansion.

Maybe Lou really was just an inconsiderate, selfish, and destructive jerk all along, or perhaps screenwriter Josh Heald (one of the co-writers of the first film) didn't want to bother with the modifying the character dynamics to accommodate the fact that these characters had changed. The changes here are entirely cosmetic.

Lou gets his dream of seemingly limitless power to inflate his ego and destroy the egos of others. Nick (Craig Robinson) steals hit songs from other musicians whose creative processes seem to have been halted in the time shuffle (There's an amusing cameo from one of those singers, who's on the set for Nick's music video of song she would have written; she notes that the lyrics feel "almost violating"). Jacob (Clark Duke), who learned he is Lou's son in the previous film and basically has become his dad's butler, is still repeatedly mocked for his ability to recognize how similar situations are to other movies and TV shows. John Cusack's character, by the way, is on a "journey of self-discovery," which likely means that the actor or his agent actually read the screenplay.

His replacement of sorts is Adam Scott, who plays the son of the Cusack character as a skirt-wearing, nauseatingly affectionate man who's obsessed with the fact that he's getting married. That character comes into the plot much later, though. It starts with someone trying to murder Lou by shooting him in the crotch.

Jacob and Nick help him into the time-traveling hot tub, believing they can prevent the killing. They end up traveling 10 years into the future and on an alternate timeline, meaning Lou is still alive and that his killer came from the future (Chevy Chase's repairman returns to talk in more riddles).

If it sounds confusing, it is, but like the first film, the sequel does play the confusion with a wink and nudge. That's about the end of the movie's dalliance with subtlety. The actual number of jokes here is surprisingly limited, and the movie just lets the actors riff on an idea or two, such as when they first catch a glimpse of their future selves in the mirror and come up with ways to describe each other's appearance. About two or three of them are amusing, which means the success rate for the scene is between 10 and 20 percent. That sounds about right for the entire movie, too.

The movie has a few clever ideas, namely an automated car that sets out to kill Lou after determining he's threat to society and a popular television show that forces washed-up celebrities to do anything the audience wants. When the latter scenario results in Nick and Lou strapped into virtual-reality headgear and coerced into having virtual sex under threat of electroshock, though, it's pretty clear that Hot Tub Machine 2 is running on creative fumes (The punch line to the scene is even less funny than the setup, because it removes the element of payback for Lou). The first film worked almost exclusively because its sincerity amidst the crassness was disarming. This one disarms the characters of their sincerity.

Copyright 2015 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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