Friday, February 13, 2015

Hot Tub Time Machine 2

The original Hot Tub Time Machine had a catchy hook, but once the insanity of the premise wore off, it ended up being a mostly passable comedy with a handful of decent jokes. Bereft of the first film's originality, Hot Tub Time Machine 2 is just a tired riff on what we've already seen. It's a standard, by-the-book sequel: take the same basic characters and put them in essentially the same situation they were in before, then tweak a few details to try to spice it up. Sure, it has a few funny moments, but does that justify spending another hour and a half with these characters? In this case, I don't think so.

Hot Tub Time Machine 2
Director: Steve Pink
Starring: Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson, Clark Duke, Adam Scott

After the events of the first movie, Lou (Rob Corddry) has become filthy rich after becoming a rock and roll god and "inventing" Google (in a move fitting for his massive ego, he calls it "Lougle"). Nick (Craig Robinson) is a famous musician, but through no talent of his own - the hot tub time machine has allowed him to simply beat other artists to the punch. (His rendition of Lisa Loeb's "Stay" got a big laugh from my audience.) Jacob (Clark Duke) wants approval from Lou - his father - serving as his butler at expensive parties but otherwise lounging around and getting high off all day. After Lou sustains a serious injury at one of his parties, the gang jumps back in the hot tub to track down his would-be assassin, but instead of going back in time, they wind up in the future - an uninspired version of 2025. Let's just say that in ten years, no one is going to be celebrating this fake future like they are with Back to the Future Part II this year.

The film's funny moments are few and far between, mostly relegated to clearly improvised bits like a game of "You look like..." that's ripped straight from Judd Apatow's "Know how I know you're gay?" thing from The 40-Year-Old Virgin. (The guys just stand around and make fun of each other's appearance for two or three minutes.) Adam Scott, who plays a relative of John Cusack's character from the first film, has some nice moments as an uptight cheeseball nerd, but his character isn't nearly as endearing as his dorky Ben Wyatt on Parks and Recreation. Here, he's the kind of guy who gets talked into doing crazy hallucinogenic drugs and almost ruining his wedding to his fiancee (an underutilized Gillian Jacobs).

And because this is a studio comedy produced in the modern era, it must be contractually obligated to have some sort of gross-out physical humor scene. After Melissa McCarthy dropped a deuce in a sink in Bridesmaids and Rose Byrne shot milk out of her bulging breasts in Neighbors, how do you top that? Hot Tub Time Machine 2 tries (and fails) with a scene in which a character's balls are filled with a medical substance, punctured with a needle, and then squirts liquid directly into the faces of two other characters. In another effort to be edgy, there's a rape sequence that plays out between two of the main characters...but the film tries to argue that it's OK because it takes place in a virtual environment.

Aside from those two instances, the movie is mostly unobjectionable, and plays out just as you think it will. Lessons are learned and bro hugs are given, but it doesn't take any real chances or cover any thematically interesting territory. It's a dumb, shallow comedy that doesn't have much to say, and if that's all you're expecting, then you'll probably laugh a few times and be fine with it. I was just hoping for something a little bit better than that, and now I wish I had my own hot tub time machine so I could go back and avoid spending time on a sequel that didn't quite do it for me. But if you do go see this in theaters, be sure to stick around for a 22 Jump Street style ending that does a good job of serving as either a set-up for a potential sequel or a wrap-up for the franchise.

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