I feel that I should preface this review with a dirty secret: Hot Tub Time Machine (heretofore to be abbreviated as HTTM) is my favorite guilty pleasure film of all time. HTTM is not a great movie, I’m not even sure that it’s a good movie, but it is a retardedly fun time travel romp. Part of the charm is the nostalgia (John Cusack making another 80s flick), part of it is how far they take the comedy bits (which is needless to say, they take them to the most absurd places possible), and another part is the bromance between the 4 lead characters. So much is crammed into HTTM, and it’s all funny, even if it’s illogical and completely impossible. It’s my comfort movie when I’m feeling down, upset, or need a pick me up a trip in the hot tub sets me right.
So how does the sequel fare in comparison to the original? Surprisingly well actually. Which is not to say it is as good as HTTM, but for a movie already starting with a handicap, Hot Tub Time Machine 2 (HTTM2) is another madcap run through time in the most implausible of ways with a group of actors that play very well off of each other.
Let’s talk about the handicaps. First, this movie does not have John Cusack joining them with their time traveling hijinks this time, effectively robbing the series of its most bankable star. Second, instead of the past, they go into the future which takes away the nostalgia factor. Third and final hurdle, the budget difference. HTTM was made for an estimated budget of $36 million, whereas HTTM2 was made for $14 million dollars, nearly two thirds less than the original, and it shows.
The good news, the movie oddly enough doesn’t really suffer much by not having Cusack. Certainly his character, Adam, could have added some extra comedy and plot threads to the proceedings, but when the credits roll one thing becomes clear: the cast can carry the flick without him. With Cusack out, this very much becomes Rob Corddry’s baby, and as such his character Lou drives most of the narrative. Corddry does an admirable job playing the a-hole of the group, and his character is very much going through what you might think would happen to Lou following the conclusion of the first film – essentially he does everything you could possibly imagine in the most excessive way possible. The continuity and characters feeling “right” is likely due to the return of the original writer and director, Josh Heald and Steve Pink, respectively.
Craig Robinson and Clark Duke both put up solid comedic turns as their characters deal with life after the return from their first time travel. Robinson’s character, Nick, is now a famous singer (although nobody knows that he’s been stealing songs from the future because he records them before the original artist does) who is still having problems with his marriage. Duke’s character, Jacob, is dealing with the fact that he now knows who his father is, but he doesn’t really have a relationship with his dad as much as he is essentially his butler. The cast is rounded out by the newcomer, Adam Scott, who plays Adam Jr (Adam’s son from the future). Adam Jr acts as our ambassador for the future, explaining how things work and what’s popular. He also gives Lou someone new to emotionally destroy, which lead to some satisfyingly depraved and horribly funny moments.
The plot for this time trip is based on solving a murder mystery. Someone attempts to kill Lou (in a most foul, but predictable way if you saw the first film) and the gang hop into the Hot Tub (which Lou stole from the Ski Lodge – again from the first movie) and decide to go back in time to stop Lou from getting killed. Problem is, they don’t go to the past, they go to the future, which as they figure out is where the killer is from. The list of reasons to kill Lou far outweigh any reason to keep him alive so the gang has a lot of work to do to figure out the mystery and get back in time to save Lou.
This movie’s main weakness is that it just doesn’t have the same heart that the original picture had. In HTTM, the relationships seemed more complex, and the idea of undoing the past and changing life for everybody in the present unified the guys in very good way. In HTTM2, nearly all of that is thrown out the window. The characters are fun to watch, but they seem more like characitures of themselves, as if life since the ending of the first movie hadn’t changed them much at all – even though it should have changed them significantly. Also, by going into the future this time, there’s no concern whatsoever about the possible butterfly effect, and as such the guys good off as much as possible. The one interesting thing about going to future, is that they get to see who they become, which gives them a chance to change that when they return to present day, but again, you get a strong feeling that they aren’t actually going to try to avoid any of their train wrecked futures, which just boggles my mind. In fact, they seem to care so little about the time continuum that during the end credits sequence they jump to a whole lot of different eras and cause all sorts of chaos, it’s indulgent and way over the top, but not any more than the rest of the series, so in it’s own quirky way it works.
Ultimately, if you happen to be a fan of outrageous and offensive humor, you will likely enjoy Hot Tub Time Machine 2. If you’ve seen the first film, you’ll likely feel that something is slightly off about the sequel, but not so much to keep you from enjoying the ride. It’s bawdy escapist enterainment, and a fun way to spend 90 minutes.
There’s a part of me that would like to see them cap this series off with a third installment, but then I had a better idea: (my first official pitch, folks) make it a TV series for a premium cable station, such as Showtime or HBO. Let the gang go on crazy time travel adventures changing everything and growing stronger as friends. Oh, and bring John Cusack back if you can, I’d love to see where his story goes next. Also, they can’t really explain what happened in Cincinnati without him, and enquiring minds would like to know.
Still curious if you might like Hot Tub Time Machine 2? Check out this trailer (which is not safe for work or kids!):