Hot Tub Time Machine 2 is the funniest movie we currently have that involves a hot tub capable of time travel. There are only two I’m aware of, at the moment. But this no-holds-barred – and unabashedly idiotic – sequel is an improvement over its uneven predecessor, and I’m now convinced a third sequel (and possibly more) could actually happen. Hot Tub Time Machine 2, additionally, is a lot funnier than a movie named Hot Tub Time Machine 2 deserves to be. Every so often, Hollywood produces a sequel to a film no one expected to hit big. The cast of Hot Tub Time Machine 2 look pretty stunned that they are even back for more ridiculous adventures. So they use the invitation as an excuse to try some bizarre, crude, obnoxious, stupid but frequently funny gags inspired by the story’s already silly concept. Do they all connect? Absolutely not, but there’s very little Hot Tub Time Machine 2 won’t try in the name of offensive humor.
Think I’m kidding? I’m not. The thrust of the sequel finds three friends traveling through time to unravel the mystery of who shot their other pal in the dick. With a shotgun. But I’m getting ahead of myself. The events of the original movie have turned Lou (Rob Corddry), Nick (Craig Robinson) and Jacob (Clark Duke) into rock stars… literally and figuratively. Nick built a successful music career by stealing massive pop songs from the future and claiming them as his own. (Look for Lisa Loeb in a clever cameo involving cats.) Lou went the tech genius route, inventing the Google clone “Lougle” and amassing billions. But Lou pissed someone off, and during a celebratory bash, he takes a bullet to the balls. The three jump in the hot tub on a mission to stop Lou’s assailant before he (or she) can attack.
“Life is about do-overs,” Lou tells his friends when justifying his abuse of the time machine to better his personal and professional status, and that motto seems to have been adapted by the creative team working on this sequel. The success of the first movie opened the door to a second story, a “do-over,” and the make the most of the opportunity… for the most part. Instead of hopscotching through various decades, Time Machine 2 parks itself in 2025. In this alternate dimension, Lou is a disheveled hobo, Nick’s a musical punchline of a one-hit wonder, and Jacob’s the successful one. Original star John Cusack declined the invite to return, and is replaced by Adam Scott, playing Cusack’s future son.
Once that all has been loosely established, Time Machine 2 gets comfortable, and comfortably strange. Neil Patrick Harris is our president in the year 2025. We have smart cars, but if you offend them, they can seek permission to kill you (as one tries to do with Corddry, who is in full “asshole” mode throughout the comedy). The most successful program on primetime television is hosted by Christian Slater, and involves weekly bouts of virtual sex – usually involving ass play. (This maked Hot Tub Time Machine 2 the second movie currently in theaters to go after the once-taboo topic of anal sex in search of a laugh. What an odd trend.)
Time Machine 2 works because the cast knows how to play off of each other well, and it’s never afraid to be ridiculous because it knows it isn’t shackled to a plot. Director Steve Pink (Grosse Point Blank, High Fidelity) gives his comedians plenty of slack, and they find funny ways to fill it. There are actual, long-ish scenes of Craig, Duke and Corddry riffing their way through a game of “You Look Like,” where they hurl improvisational insults at each other. It’s never not funny.
If you’ve read this far, you are about as interested in a movie called Hot Tub Time Machine 2 as anyone is going to be. Deep down, you understand this isn’t going to be a good movie. It is, however, a surreal and frequently hilarious movie that doesn’t take full advantage of its time-travel potential, but replaces those missed opportunities with more than enough dick and drug jokes to have you looking forward to the next dip in the low-brow hot tub.