There have been a lot of sequels and remakes released for classic comedies within the last year – “classic” being used as a relatively loose term. Fans of the originals have been excited for just about all of them, but that excitement more often than not has to come with a side of caution. I’ve written reviews for a few these – Anchorman 2, 22 Jump Street, TMNT, and Dumb and Dumber To – with having said that my expectations were ridiculously low for each. How often do producers, actors, and directors come back to the well, or hot tub in this case, and recreate the same magic? Almost universally never. But that doesn’t mean that they aren’t still entertaining… and I would argue that Hot Tub Time Machine 2 falls within this category. Expect the worst and maybe be pleasantly surprised.
That brings up a good point…what constitutes a good comedy? Usually, the most critically acclaimed comedies are those that are clever and subtle in the way they make you laugh. Those that bomb are the ones that try too hard and slap you in the face with “look how funny I am!” Hot Tub Time Machine 2 is somewhere in the middle. I laughed through the entire movie but still came away feeling a bit underwhelmed. The story picks up where the first left off, with Lou (Rob Corddry), Nick (Craig Robinson), and Jacob (Clark Duke) riding high off their successes from Lou’s insight to the future. While Lou struggles to innovate with his multi-billion dollar company, Lougle, Nick keeps making hits he’s ripped off from the past. (There’s a pretty comical scene with Lisa Loeb in which she’s Nick starts seeing the effect of his ways…while he is filming a video for her song “Stay,” her career has fallen to being the studio’s cat wrangler.) Things take a turn when someone at a party tries to kill Lou by absolutely mutilating his dick with a shotgun. You never shoot a guy in the dick. But somehow, it keeps happening to guys on The Daily Show. Of the many similarities with 21 Jump Street and its sequel, this is by far the funniest (however low brow, dick jokes will always be funny to me).
Getting back to the point, to try to save Lou, Nick and Jacob hop back into the hot tub to take him back in time to before he got shot…but they end up ten years in the future. If you saw the previews and thought, “wow, John Cusack has aged well,” it’s actually his character’s son Adam (Adam Scott) that they meet up with in 2025. The rest of the movie is an adventure trying to find Lou’s would-be killer so they can go back in time and fix everything from this new warped sense of reality in the future.
Without John Cusack, this sequel has turned into a buddy flick that doesn’t have the same charm as the first and falls a bit flat. It didn’t have the luxury of being able to fly in under the radar like the original, with a trailer that even poked fun of how ridiculous its name was. I think the target audience, me included, will get a lot of laughs from Hot Tub Time Machine 2, but they could end up feeling like cheap laughs. And to those outside that target… save your money and watch it on the couch with a Sunday hangover on Comedy Central in a couple years.