Reviews

'Hot Tub Time Machine 2' Is an Exercise in Stunted Scatology

Hot Tub Time Machine 2 will be clever only to those who never outgrew hearing their first dirty joke at summer camp.


Hot Tub Time Machine 2

Director: Steve Pink
Cast: Rob Cordrry, Craig Robinson, Clark Duke, Collete Wolfe, Kumail Nanjiani, Jason Jones
Studio: Paramount Pictures
US Release Date: 2015-02-20
UK Release Date: 2015-04-10

There was a time, back before the National Lampoon unleashed their Animal House, when scatology was scarce in comedy. Sure, John Waters worked magic with body parts and their various fluids, and Mel Brooks celebrated flatulence and sexual kink, but they were the rarity in a reality which valued wit over the wanton. Then, Hollywood discovered the dick joke and all bets were off. It wasn't long before Judd Apatow and his slacker stars were using the penis as a punchline with shocking regularity.

All of which leads to the unlikeable, awful Hot Tub Time Machine 2. A sequel to the excellent '80s deconstructionist comedy about salvaging second chances, this wholly unneeded repeat has little to add to the franchise except the frequency at which it references the penis as a potential payoff. The movie begins with a dick joke, offers dozens of dick jokes along the way, and when it finally decides to "peter" out, it fades away on jokes about the dick as well. If they were funny, that would be fine. They are not, unfortunately. Nothing here is.

This second stale installment begins with a kind of quickie update. Previous angry loser Lou Dorchen (Rob Cordrry) has turned into a time machine aided billionaire, and he's one right bastard about it. He pisses off everyone in his path, from his drug-addled wife (Collette Wolfe), his reluctant "son" Jacob (Clark Duke), a former best friend (Jason Jones) desperate to pawn off some valueless New Orleans property on him, and an employee (Kumail Nanjiani) at his Internet company, "Lougle", who wants to do more than serve his boss's selfish, sexually-oriented whims.

His best buddy, Nick Webber (Craig Robinson) is also a massive success, having turned his knowledge of the pop hits from the last 30 years into a copycat cash grab (we watch as he films a video for his "original" Lisa Loeb song "Stay"). During one of his frequent parties to celebrate his awesomeness, Lou is shot by an unseen assassin. Desperate to find out what happened, Jacob and Nick take their dying buddy back to the hot tub and try to go back into the past. Instead, they end up in the future, where fortunes have turned. Jacob is now the big shot, while the others have fallen on hard times. With the help of Lou's nephew Adam (Adam Scott) they will try and solve the crime, picking out the perpetrator out of a list of possible suspects.

So, this is a mystery, with perhaps the biggest question mark being who thought this 13 year old male puberty diary as a screenplay was anything remotely amusing. If comedy is timing, this is one temporal displacement device sorely bereft of same. The entire film feels off, as if director Steve Pink (back from the first installment) and his screenwriter Josh Heald (also from the first movie) moved the entire project just a few feet to the left and right into the rotten. The story centers on a complete and unapologetic jerk, the kind of person who'd get cold-cocked if this was real life (or the original Hot Tub Time Machine, where Lou had his ass handed to him regularly). Now, without the threat of anything except a shotgun blast to the junk (this film truly is obsessed with penises), the character steamrolls over the rest of the players as well as the audience's perspective.

Since we don't like Lou to begin with, it's impossible to get behind his whodunit. The target for the gunman's wrath should remove the numerous red herrings and lead a path straight toward this jerk's bedroom. But no, we have to wallow through an hour of failed future shock, from Smart Cars whose actual A.I. is matched by its human feelings (and need to be coddled) to a game show called Choozy Doozy where every challenge ends up in a homophobic slur. Throughout it all, we're supposed to laugh and relax, realizing it's all a big joke. But since it's not funny, we don't see the humor, just the hate. And this is a movie that hates everything: women, men, intelligence, hard work, truth, integrity, and perhaps most importantly, modesty.

It's all so adolescent, and arrestedly so. Hot Tub Time Machine 2 will be clever only to those who never outgrew hearing their first dirty joke at summer camp. It's not even subversive in its sleaze. Instead, it wears its unwelcome perversion like a badge of honor. It's glimpse of the shape of things to come is like Idiocracy mixed with designer drugs -- legal, naturally -- and a neverending news cycle of mindless celebrity pap. While traditions like weddings and bachelor parties are maintained, the world of 2025 is also frighteningly uninformed. Any time a character needs to know something about their present, it requires a Herculean effort to get the basics.

But the main problem remains Lou. He's a cancer, called a "virus that poisons everything" by his own offspring. Cordrry is such an expert at playing unlikeable that he either gives the greatest performance in the history of film or the worst. Nothing about this character's situation is worthy of our compassion or attention. The same applies to everyone else. While John Cusack (who didn't return thanks to some "unreasonable" salary demands) is supposedly off on a spiritual journey, his buddies are belying their sorry lot in life and misogynistically taking it out on everyone else. There is a great deal of disgust at the heart of Hot Tub Time Machine 2, and it's never aimed in the right direction.

The result is ruinous, a complete disaster disguised as a low-brow laugher. Sure, it may satisfy those for whom a night out at the movies is nothing more than mindless entertainment and a way to waste otherwise valuable time. But the truth about Hot Tub Time Machine 2 is that it's pointless cash grab that can't even muster a smile out of its victims before it robs them of their money and dignity.

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