I can only imagine the difficulty in trying to come up with an idea to make a sequel to Hot Tub Time Machine. Considering the only cast member to not return was John Cusack definitely gives one pause, especially after he publicly stated that he was never even approached for Hot Tub Time Machine 2, when his character was the lead. As with Dumb and Dumber To, mixed results are the name of the game, and while that one came 20 years too late, even five years was too long for this one.
Most of the boys are back: Lou Dorchen (Rob Corddry), is a millionaire thanks to his band Motley Lou and the invention of Lougle (aka Google); Nick Webber (Craig Robinson) is a successful “songwriter” meaning he’s continuing to rip off songs he already knows are hits in the future/present; Jacob (Clark Duke) is living in the shadow of Lou as his butler, whether he admits it or not. And we get told Adam (played by Cusack in the first film) is MIA on an existential journey after publishing a hit book based on their time-traveling antics. What little plot we get this time revolves around our hapless heroes using their titular time machine to save Lou from death after he’s shot in the crotch at a party. Does hilarity ensue? Ehh… mostly.
If there’s one thing missing the most in Hot Tub Time Machine 2, it’s the presence of Cusack. The first film was a spectacular throwback to the films he helped popularize and worked as a dandy spoof to bat. For the sequel, well, I hope you enjoy the rest of the cast as much as they hoped because they’re all we get. Director Pink has none of the nostalgic charm he did with the first film, and screenwriter Josh Heald is never too low to stoop beyond the grossest joke. Case in point, while probably thinking they’re making a callback to the first film, Lou and Nick wind up getting a faceful of bodily fluids. But where the initial film pulled off a hilarious punchline, the literalness of the joke here just makes it disgusting.
Fear not, there are a lot of funny jokes at work here, but they are fewer and far between. Walking out of the screening I seemed to be the only person around with anything even slightly positive to say. First impressions were better than when I started writing this review. The film may not be a complete disaster, but it won’t go down as one of the worst of the year. It’s never as charming as the original, and let’s just say that Corddry still has a long way to go before being able to carry a film on his own.
Thankfully, the returning cast, and a few new faces — especially Adam Scott as Adam’s estranged son, and Community’s Gillian Jacobs as his fiancée — try to keep the pace moving. Except that even at what should be a quick 93 minutes, it does start to drag in some parts. The worst being a particularly homophobic stretch involving the boys on a game show. For anyone looking for kind-of-more-of-the-same, you might get enough laughs to justify the ticket. For anyone hoping a sequel that at least feels like the first film, Hot Tub Time Machine 2 will never live up to expectations.