This Grimy Tub Should’ve Never Been Filled
DIRECTED BY STEVE PINK/2015
It would be wrong to call Hot Tub Time Machine 2 an ugly, smug, hateful waste of cinema, because to do so would imply that it indeed exhibits at least a flair for the cinematic. Which of course is not the case. This film, the follow up to 2010’s sleeper hit comedy Hot Tub Time Machine – a goofy little piece of work that managed to transcend the novelty appeal of its title, if only by a smidgen – can’t even begin to live up to its predecessor. Everyone is back this time (Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson, Clark Duke, and writer Josh Heald, and director Steve Pink) with the glaring exception of John Cusack. The fact the actor skipped out on this dreadful slog in spite of his career having taken a direct-to-video turn lately leaves me with a newfound respect for John Cusack. And that is literally the only nice thing I can say about this movie.
Hot Tub Time Machine 2‘s first mistake is expecting us to recall the plot and events of the first film. The sequel indeed begins where the first one left off, which, if memory serves, was a quick series of throwaway flashcard and headline gags showing how the main characters end up using the time machine to become rich and famous in cornball ways. You know, stuff like the character named Lou founding Google, so instead it’s “Lougle”. Or, tone deaf Craig Robinson commandeering the hit songs of the last 25 years so that he is a pop music superstar, supplanting Nirvana, Lisa Loeb, and others. It’s the exact sort of thing that’s good for a chuckle at the end of the original lowbrow time travel comedy.
That we’re supposed to find these guys loveable scads when they’re irritating jerks is the film’s biggest failure. As tolerable as they were the first go ’round, this time their only redeeming quality is that we stop seeing them after 93 minutes.
But to ask us to spend the first fifteen minutes in the offices of the Lougle on plot stuff and to remember and care about these immediately hateful and repulsive people is asking too much. Instead of the actual jokes, the movie hurls a barrage of vulgarity and crude dialogue. It literally never stops. And don’t forget prolonged tacky Trivia Crush-looking drug trip sequences – those take up long minutes of screen time. Instead of attempting to be engaging with the story or situation we might care about or even makes sense, it ops to blow a guy’s crotch off with a shotgun, and go from there. It’s a dark turn so soon, I’ll give it that. But if a massive, bloody, out-of-nowhere destruction of a guys genitals is your idea of a hilarious time at the movies, then I guess we disagree on Hot Tub Time Machine 2.
The nebulous premise is that the guys, on different levels, begin to experience regret for having foisted themselves onto the world by altering history. For convoluted and dumb reasons, their new time traveling hot tub takes them to the future, where they must somehow stop the one guys junk from getting shot off in the altered past. It’s there, in the year 2025, that they meet Adam Scott, playing John Cusack’s son. Adam Scott has a history of being tolerable at best in movies, and his involved in this one knocks him down several more pegs in my book. Somehow, these guys wind up competing on a virtual reality game show hosted by Christian Slater. And wouldn’t you know it, the central gag of the entire prolonged set piece ends up being man-on-man sex. Always hilarious! In this world, this game is the most popular show in the world.
That we’re supposed to find these guys loveable scads when they’re irritating jerks is the film’s biggest failure. As tolerable (if not memorable) as they were the first go ’round, this time their only redeeming quality is that we stop seeing them after 93 minutes. The leads, all them actually funny elsewhere, seem to be approaching the material thusly: Craig Robinson strains to bring humanity, but is repeatedly crushed in doing so. Clark Duke seems to recognize that this movie needs more, and struggles to smarten it up wherever possible. No dice. Rob Corddry exhibits the defeated wisdom of acting the material as straightforward as possible. It’s a starring role, be grateful for that and just get through it.
On the supporting level, Chevy Chase, so celebrated for his oddball turn in the original, turns up again as the mystical tub repairman – a completely expendable one minute of screen time. And in a film that clearly doesn’t know what to do with women, Bainca Hasse as Clark Duke’s love interest suffers the most contrivance and indignity. One moment she’s the cute coat check girl with her head on straight, then POOF! It’s off to an alternate reality where she strolls out topless to greet the fellas in Duke’s future mansion. Sexy, no. Uncomfortably grating objectification, yes. Then the movie forgets about her. And immediately, it’s impossible to root for these two characters to get together, as this hedonistic mansion existence is the movie’s idea of an idealized outcome. In fact, there’s no one worth rooting for in the entire film. It’s a broken jacuzzi of unclean film.
Although Hot Tub Time Machine 2 is a bigger-budgeted follow-up film that was advertised during the Super Bowl and has the freight train backing of not one but two major studios behind it, it has the unintentional look and feel of a made-for-TV movie from decades ago. The 2025 future year aesthetics succeed beneath the gaudy wrongness of Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey‘s futuristic set dressing. It’s easy to forget that it’s supposed to be the future, were it not for the occasional holographic technology or a lame subplot where robotic smart cars have become homicidal. Why this isn’t premiering directly onto video store shelves (next to John Cusack’s latest offering, perhaps) is a more engaging question than anything put forth by the movie itself.
We’ve seen lazy, stupid and repugnant before, but this marries it with the smug self satisfaction of the Hangover sequels, and even goes for an 11th hour-and-59th minute sentimental tog of the heartstrings. Oh no you don’t, Hot Tub Time Machine 2. This is a poorly made, non-engaging, ugly and soul-sucking experience. It’s the kind of movie one emerges from crushed, moved to question one’s entire life and what unfortunate choices might’ve led to the moment of being in this theater watching this movie.
Not so much a movie as a nauseating experience, it’s indicative of everything that’s wrong with Hollywood’s sequel-greenlighting mentality. If only there were a way to go back and stop this movie from ever happening. The biggest and only irony of it is that Hot Tub Time Machine 2 is foisting itself unasked-for onto the world just as it’s main characters have done at the end of the previous film, and now feel badly about. Unfortunately the only way anyone involved with this shortsighted mess would likely feel such regret would be if the movie lost money. God willing, it’ll quietly go right down the drain. Because once you’ve seen it, there’s no hot tub can make you feel clean enough, or no time machine to turn back the clock. Follow the lead of John Cusack, and stay out of this grimy tub that was better left abandoned in the past.