The original Hot Tub Time Machine was one of 2010’s best surprise hits. Riding the very first wave of the post-The Hangover boom for R-rated comedies, Hot Tub Time Machine merely turned a modest profit, but was nonetheless quite well-received by critics and viewers alike. The movie functioned as a clever throwback to 1980’s comedies, another golden era for racy comedy movies made for adults that saw a big post-Animal House boom, with the likes of Bachelor Party, Porky’s, Revenge and the Nerds and more,
Unfortunately, all of those 1980’s comedy classics saw some pretty lousy sequels, and Hot Tub Time Machine is sadly no exception.
Hot Tub Time Machine 2 is yet another superfluous comedy sequel that doesn’t feel warranted. It’s not completely unfunny, but it thoroughly fails to compare to its much more clever and funny predecessor. The loss of John Cusack and Lizzy Caplan in the sequel is an especially heavy blow, one that sucks out an enormous amount of the original movie’s charm, leaving the sequel to feel tired and off-putting by comparison.
There’s still some fun to be had with Rob Cordry, Craig Robinson and Clark Duke, and a well-meaning Adam Scott tries his best to fill the shoes of John Cusack as Cusack’s and Caplan’s characters’ future son, but none of it is enough. Perhaps hardcore fans of the original Hot Tub Time Machine might find the sequel worth checking out, but they’d best do so with lowered expectations.
With John Cusack’s Adam out of the picture, we’re now left with Lou, Nick and Jacob, with Lou having re-written the future after the conclusion of the first Hot Tub Time Machine to make him a rockstar and inventor of the internet. Jacob has been resigned to being his butler, after the reveal that he was Lou’s son in the first movie, while Nick is also a music superstar that steals pop hits from our time, eliminating the careers of celebrities in the new future.
The ending was a bit charming with how it portrayed these former losers finding success after the return to their wild night in the 1980’s, but in trying to take the setting to the future, Hot Tub Time Machine 2 inadvertently makes our leads feel less likeable this time, as it begins to strain the joke, especially with Lou. The inciding incident even comes from Lou being shot in the genitals with a shotgun, and Jacob trying to use the hot tub (which Lou stole and stashed in his mansion) to take him back to the past so that it didn’t happen, except somehow accidentally taking them to the future, despite clearly inputting the co-ordinates of the past. What?!
This is explained in one thankless scene with Chevy Chase’s nameless hot tub repairman, and fans had best enjoy this scene, because it’s the only time that Chevy Chase ever re-appears in the sequel, despite being one of the most fun characters in the first movie. Consequently, Chase delivers his lines in a very tired and disinterested way, no doubt knowing that he only has one scene, and justifiably not caring as a result.
Fortunately, Cordry, Robinson and Duke are still doing the best they can with what they’ve got, and as I said, Adam Scott gives it his all as well, despite having to follow the big shoes of John Cusack. Scott has largely been confined to cleaner comedies lately, namely his regular stint on the recently-wrapped TV series, Parks and Recreation for NBC, so it’s nice to see him let loose with more R-rated material. Too bad it’s not better-written material however with one of Scott’s only noteworthy scenes being when he inadvertently takes a highly potent futuristic drug that makes him hallucinate.
Scott’s character, Adam Jr. (a frequent audience reminder that John Cusack isn’t around this time) is engaged to Gillian Jacobs’ straight-laced Jill as well, with Hot Tub Time Machine 2 missing a massive opportunity to re-unite Jacobs with her former Community co-star, Chevy Chase. It’s just as well though, since Jacobs isn’t given anything to do. She’s only there to provide a weak excuse for a climax, featuring a twist that just about any viewer can see coming from a mile away.
Collette Wolfe also reprises her role as Adam Sr.’s sister, Lou’s wife and Jacob’s mother, Kelly, though as with Gillian Jacobs, she’s given nothing to do here. Despite largely being a gag character in the first movie, the sequel plays Kelly straight, and tries to make her into a tragic victim of Lou’s destructive lifestyle, which just feels uncomfortable. A movie called Hot Tub Time Machine 2 probably shouldn’t be taking itself this seriously.
The sequel tries to explore how fame and fortune still hasn’t fundamentally fixed the character flaws of our leads, but it misses the mark in terms of creating the surprisingly heartfelt story foundation of the first movie. Instead, the sequel feels like the definition of a movie that just takes a crap all over its predecessor, namely its enjoyable characters, ruining the effectively goofy ending of the original with a needless cracked mirror held up to its personalities.
To the credit of Hot Tub Time Machine 2, it avoids recycling the same material and jokes as its predecessor for the most part, but it might actually have been better off doing that if I’m being honest. The new batch of jokes in the future range from merely decent to just being head-scratching. There are a couple of big laughs in the sequel, but they’re spread out pretty far, and that’s about it.
The entire plot of the sequel revolves around a dopey mystery of who shot Lou in the present, and again, it’s a weak twist that audiences will easily be able to see coming. The exploration of the future feels outlandish, to mixed effect, but the final resolution of it all is weak and unsatisfying. Like I said, the charm behind the original movie’s storyline is pretty much entirely gone in this follow-up.
Worse still is that the sequel scrambles to try and create a new conflict for the characters, beyond Lou getting shot in the nuts, but in the process, it just ends up biting off more than it could chew. Lou, Nick and Jacob are all once again portrayed as losers in the future, though for opposite reasons as they were in the first movie. Likewise, Adam Jr. tries to balance them out as the super-agreeable, milk toast tag-along, but Adam Scott’s talents are wasted with such a dull character, one that also serves as a pretty poor replacement for John Cusack, albeit not through any fault of Scott’s.
Thus, the result continues to be a sequel that doesn’t need to exist, and makes itself worse by tarnishing the legacy of its surprise hit original. Even the happy ending doesn’t feel warranted, and doesn’t make up for dragging the first movie’s personalities through the mud the way that this sequel does throughout its runtime.
Steve Pink returns from the first movie to direct the sequel, but his first Hot Tub Time Machine effort was definitely better. Pink still delivers the party scenes with plenty of psychedelic craziness, and those remain the most appealing scenes to watch, but Pink’s direction is definitely better-suited to retro chic than future speculation.
To be fair, some of the gags involving future tech are realized fine, but Pink doesn’t display the same surprising capability to realize dramatic scenes in the sequel that he had when helming the original. Just about every emotional moment falls flat on its face in Hot Tub Time Machine 2, making for a movie that’s quite juvenile, yet believes it’s more mature than it is.
Pink does the best he can however, and you can tell that he still works well with Cordry, Robinson and Duke, which is the one thing that prevents the sequel from feeling like a disaster. Despite everyone clearly having a pretty good time making the movie however, the heart that was present in the first movie doesn’t feel quite so noticeable in the follow-up, which just seems inept and disappointing by comparison.
Hot Tub Time Machine 2 had the odds stacked against it more than most comedy sequels that get green-lit do, since the original movie was already a surprise success that nobody expected anything from. As many no doubt feared, Hot Tub Time Machine 2 strains the joke to breaking point, and often feels more awkward than it does funny.
The movie was made for a paltry $14 million, down considerably from the $33 million budget of the original (much of that no doubt came from John Cusack’s salary), but so far, it hasn’t even managed to gross that back in ticket sales. I can’t say that I’m surprised. Hot Tub Time Machine 2 completely misses the point of what made the original so good, namely that it was a surprisingly fun party movie that still had an emotional, heartwarming resolution, in spite of itself.
Hot Tub Time Machine 2 however, being the definition of a superfluous comedy sequel, just stumbles onto the scene with no sense of care or priorities, hugely late to the party to boot, seeing as the original came out in 2010 and it’s now 2015, If you really like the first movie and are curious about the sequel, I’d perhaps wait for it to show up as a cheap home viewing rental. It definitely doesn’t merit a theatrical trip, and it also doesn’t deserve to bear the name, Hot Tub Time Machine.
If that hot tub is truly supposed to take you where you need to go, it should have taken us to a better movie for the return trip.
- Cordry, Robinson and Duke still work well together
- Some of the future gags are funny
- Story is inept and awkward
- Adam Scott can't replace John Cusack
- Chevy Chase gets one thankless scene