Hot Tub Time Machine 2 review
When I reviewed Kingsman: The Secret Service I singled out a tasteless joke as a blot on an otherwise enjoyable movie. In the case of Hot Tub Time Machine 2, a horrendous joke makes an already bad movie vile. There’s nothing fun or funny about Hot Tub Time Machine 2, a movie so awful that even John Cusack, who has lately starred in such movies as The Raven, Drive Hard, and Dragon Blade, passed on it. It’s not even serviceable as an airplane movie. I don’t know why or how this movie got greenlit—Hot Tub Time Machine barely made money. There was nothing to justify a sequel, the lead star wasn’t interested in revisiting the material—I can only assume that #2 exists because somebody somewhere lost a bet with Satan and this was the price.
I won’t defend the original Hot Tub Time Machine as anything but mildly enjoyable entertainment, but it does have a certain charm to it. Relying on nostalgia, plus the surprisingly good chemistry of Cusack, Craig Robinson, and Rob Corddry, it makes for an acceptable something to watch on a weekend afternoon while folding laundry. But all of those ingredients are missing from #2. In the absence of Cusack, Clark Duke’s role as Jacob, the put-upon son of Lou (Corddry), is increased, but Duke doesn’t have the presence necessary to prop up the ensemble. Nor does Parks & Rec’s Adam Scott, who actually tries for a while before abruptly giving up and spending the rest of the movie visibly calculating how much of his kitchen remodel his salary will cover. These are all capable comedic performers, but they aren’t leading men, and without someone to serve as the sun around which they revolve, a black hole forms and sucks the life out of every frame of the movie.
Also missing is the sweetness of nostalgia. Hot Tub Time Machine mined solid humor from spoofing movie clichés from the 1980s, a joke that was only strengthened by the presence of Cusack, an actual 1980s movie star. But #2 goes into the future, not the past, depriving it of the nostalgia riffs that made the first movie. (It’s also missing the delightful weirdness of a bit like Crispin Glover as the doomed bellhop.) It’s always a challenge to make sequels feel fresh, but there is absolutely no attempt made to give this movie its own identity. It just takes the jokes from the last five minutes of #1—Nick built a music career on plagiarizing modern hits, and Lou invented the internet—and runs them into the ground for ninety minutes.
And then, about halfway through the movie, there is a scene so disappointing and awful that I desperately wanted to leave before it was even over. I’m a goddamned professional, so I stayed, but I was angry and resentful. The plot of the movie is really dumb, but the gist is that Nick, Lou, and Jacob travel to 2025 to try and find the person who goes back in time to kill Lou. While in the future, they hook up with Adam Jr. (Scott), the son of Cusack’s character. Some sh*t happens and they end up on a game show in which the audience dares celebrity contests to do things. It’s vaguely a Black Mirror plot, but without the cleverness or social commentary.
In the future, Nick is washed up and starring on the show, and Lou dares him to “f*ck a dude”, because homosexuality is inherently hilarious, I guess. Christian Slater, probably regretting every life decision that lead him to this point, cameos as the gameshow host, and there is some attempt to salvage the scene by having him roll his eyes and say, “What’s the big deal about boning a guy, it’s not 2010!” But then the scene goes right back to Lou and Nick being revolted at the mere idea of having sex, and in the end, Lou gets out of it by making Adam Jr. have sex with Nick, and then they make a terrible, terrible rape joke. It’s the worst thing I’ve seen at the movies in recent memory. There’s no excuse for it and the “2010” line does not work. The only way this scene could have worked is if the entire audience had booed and harangued Lou as soon as he suggested “f*ck a dude” as a dare. Only if Lou is made an object of scorn could there be a possibility of humor—that way, the joke is on homophobia, not gay people. It still wouldn’t have been a good joke, but it would have been better than this. Hot Tub Time Machine 2 is a miserable dumpster fire of a movie. I hate it. Don’t spend your money on it.
Gregg DeGuire/ Jason LaVeris/ Allen Berezovsky/ Getty Images