'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.






The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.


The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.


Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.


'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.


'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"


Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.


The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".


GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".


Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".


Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.


Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.


The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".


Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.


Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.