Hot Tub Time Machine 2 is so stupid, it's almost endearing. Almost, but not quite. If the first Hot Tub Time Machine was an enjoyably dumb, but well-made enough, high concept meets low brow comedy riff on The Hangover style of comedies and work of 1980s pop nostalgia, then Hot Tub Time Machine 2 is a fairly lazy, dark, mean-spirited look at our future present.
Directed by a returning Steve Pink and set ten years in the future, HTTM2 really lacks a proper setting as it's clear the slim budget (shot and set in New Orleans for tax purposes) couldn't afford much imaginative or futuristic designs, aside from sentient smart cars and similar gags. Screenwriter Josh Heald really doubles down on the time travel and pop culture references as the characters make comedic hay from exploiting their inherently ludicrous premise.
Switching out the bored but always charming John Cusack for the more energetic Adam Scott (who plays his character's son in the future), the comedy really harps and over relies on the buddy chemistry of its leads and the viewer's ability to stay on the film's weak ride. Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson, Clark Duke, along with Scott make for a likeable bunch but the rapid fire jokes and convenient murder mystery plot slow down any comedic momentum the sequel tries to build.
What really hurts isn't so much the lack of Cusack's presence, but the lack of his character's straight man protagonist qualities or a true voice of reason to follow in the questionable narrative. Cusack's Adam grounded things and character's presence is missed without a proper surrogate. Instead, Corddry's despicably hedonistic Lou and his increasingly lewd behaviour is given the bulk of the film to anchor with little sympathy. Every character has a shoehorned romantic subplot and character arc, begging us to wonder why they even bothered instead of focusing on the simple, gimmicky comedy fun of the first.
Hot Tub Time Machine 2 assembles some but not quite enough comedic good will from its sheer idiocy and ridiculousness despite a talented crew of comedians all trying their best with the material. It lacks the crude charm and novelistic approach of the original whose appeal rested on our collective reverence for the past. Any humour from the film derives from how far its willing to go and its absurd nature instead of any wit or cleverness behind it. Sadly, by going forward in time, the Hot Tub franchise actually goes way, way back.
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