REVIEW WRITTEN BY NATHAN LERNER/For 21st Century Media
The science fiction comedy, “Hot Tub Time Machine,” was only a modest hit. It seemed like an unlikely candidate for a sequel. However, the film did brisk sales and rental business on the lucrative home video market. So, here we are doing the sequel shuffle.
The original’s biggest star was John Cusack. He played Adam Yates, the pivotal figure of the time-traveling quartet. His 20-year old nephew, Jacob (Clark Duke) was a hardcore geek, who lived in Adam’s basement. Jacob had never met his biological father and doesn’t even know who he is. Dad turns out to be Lou Dorchen (Rob Corddry), who is a hard-partying, failed musician. Nick Webber-Agnew (Craig Robinson) was stuck in a dead-end job, working in a dog spa. He was encumbered with an adulterous and manipulative wife, Courtney (Kellee Stewart).
The original kicked into gear, when Lou nearly died in his garage from carbon monoxide poisoning. Adam and Nick assumed that it was a suicide attempt. They decided to take Lou and Jacob to the Kodiak Valley Ski Resort. It was the site of a pivotal weekend that the three older members of the crew had spent together twenty years ago. Once there, they end up in a hot tub. It turns out to be a portal into the past. During their visit to the past, they exploit their knowledge of future events to advantage. None of it made any sense conceptually. However, it was a frivolous romp after all.
In the sequel, John Cusack, who was one of the original film’s producers, is nowhere to be found. However, for the sake of attempted continuity, his character is repeatedly referenced. Adam’s absence is explained by expository dialogue, which indicates that he is on a journey of self-discovery. In addition, his son Adam, Jr. (Adam Scott), is introduced as a new character. So you have an actor, named Adam in real life playing a character named Adam, who is the son of a character named Adam. Are you following all that? Couldn’t the returning screenwriter, Josh Heald, have reduced confusion by simply naming Yate’s character something other than Adam?
The sequel starts off in 2015. The ever-obnoxious Lou has become the head of Lougle tech empire and the front man on a group called Motley Lou. Lou’s son, Jacob, despises him.
Meanwhile, Nick has become a success by recording his version of songs that he already knows will become popular hits. One of the film’s best bits features the singer, Lisa Loeb. Nick has ripped off one of Loeb’s compositions, “Stay (I Missed You),” before she can record it. Rather than being a successful recording artist, Loeb is now a cat wrangler. When Loeb meets Nick, she tells him, “I really love this song so much. It feels so personal. It’s almost violating.”
When Lou is hosting a big party at his sprawling mansion, an unidentified guest shoots him in the scrotum. Panic-stricken, Nick drags Lou to the lodge’s hot-tub time machine, which has been transplanted in the mansion. Jacob pours a vial of nitrotrinadium into the hot tub. This somehow reactivates it as a time machine. Together, the three intend to revisit the past. They plan to change events so that Lou’s balls won’t be blown to smithereens.
Somehow, rather than head back into the past, the threesome end up on 2025. For reasons that defy explanation, Lou’s genitals have been restored. As long as they are in the future, the trio decide to find out who shot Lou and why they did it. Since Lou is such a jerk, there are plenty of candidates.
The time travelers encounter plenty of surprises. Neil Partrick Harris isn’t merely the host of the Oscars. He’s been elected as President of the United States. Self-driving cars operate on their perception of human emotions, rather than fossil fuels. These high tech autos are empowered to kill anti-social humans.
There are plenty of reasons to hate “Hot Tub Time Machine 2.” Particularly offensive is a virulently homophobic television game show of the future. Replete with a slimy host played by Christian Slater, “Choozy Doozy” forces contestants to publicly engage in humiliating acts.
The script is a fast moving affair, chocked full of a litany of jokes. Most are insipid or worse. Along the way, there are a few funny lines. Enough to redeem a feature length film? Not even close!
“Hot Tub Time Machine 2” is a lukewarm affair.
** R (for crude sexual content and language throughout, graphic nudity, drug use and some violence) 93 minutes
Nathan Lerner sees over 200 feature films a year. He welcomes feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.