As uncomfortable as it is patently unfunny, Hot Tub Time Machine 2 takes the title away from Caddyshack 2 as the worst sequel to an actually funny movie ever made. It’s not enough that it’s offensive and lazy, offering up only the cheapest of gags to deafening thuds and rivers of flop sweat. It’s an outright embarrassment for everyone involved.
Picking up shortly after the 2010 high concept sleeper hit left off, three out of four of the buds who went on a ski trip and stumbled upon a time travelling hot tub in a drunken stupor have been living the high life in a world they have created by skewing events of the past. Alpha male party animal and all around jerk Lou (Rob Corddry) has become both a major rock star and the self-proclaimed founder of the Internet. His son Jacob (Clark Duke) still doesn’t do anything with his life, but is still the most sensible of the bunch. Nick (Craig Robinson) has made a living from stealing hit pop songs from artists who haven’t thought of them yet. Their world is rocked, however, when an attempt is made to kill Lou (by way of a shotgun blast to the crotch) and the friends travel to an alternate timeline in the future in hopes of tracking down his murderer. They’re helped in 2025 by Adam Jr. (Adam Scott), the goody-two-shoes son of their now apparently estranged friend from the first film.
Adam Sr. was played by John Cusack in director Steve Pink and writer Josh Heald’s first and infinitely better attempt with this material, but considering the number of sub-par direct-to-video flicks he’s appeared in lately, his absence says all one really needs to know about how dire the comedy here is. It’s even more of a slap in the face when one remembers that Pink was a co-writer on Grosse Pointe Blank and High Fidelity, two of Cusack’s biggest successes.
While the first film balanced raunchy over-the-hill-stunted-adolescent antics with a smart take on how time travel is generally used to convey lazy writing in blockbuster movies, Pink and Heald give in to their own worst desires. The jokes forget to be funny and instead come off as just blankly offensive, and there isn’t so much a point to the whole endeavour as there’s just a bunch of poorly edited and staged set pieces, one-off punchlines, and moments of parody that never hit the mark. The film peaks about five minutes in as the dreadfully underused and wasted Robinson attempts to deliver his own version of Lisa Loeb’s “Stay,” and nothing remotely amusing happens after that point. I can’t remember even cracking a smile at anything else that happened.
But as much as Robinson and Duke are trying their best to make this material work, it’s the usually reliable Corddry and Scott who go straight down with the ship. Pink and Heald have woefully overestimated the appeal of Corddry’s one-note narcissist act. Watching an entire story revolve around someone this loathsome, and not as much around the group (who have their plot arcs summed up in single, throwaway scenes), feels like punishment for liking the first film and not a case of giving the audience what they want. As for Scott, he’s dreadfully miscast and can only resort to mugging, which I guess is what you have to do when your character has to act out the most boringly staged drug trip in cinematic history.
By the time this ended with the threat of another sequel, I was wishing for my own time machine to stop this from ever becoming a franchise.