It’s safe to say that no one’s going to mistake Hot Tub Time Machine for a cinema classic, or even a top pick for comedic films produced in the last decade. That film, though, has a much better shot for some sort of acclaim than its belated sequel, which finds most of the cast intact and in a plot more harebrained and obnoxious than the original.
The original film ended with Adam (John Cusack, not reprising his role here), Lou (Rob Corddry), Nick (Craig Robinson) and Jacob (Clark Duke) back from their adventure in 1986 with newfound wealth and popularity, thanks to Lou’s decision to use his knowledge from the future to their financial benefit. The sequel picks up there, with Lou somehow more of an obnoxious prick, Nick getting lazier about the songs he steals and makes his own, and Jacob still doing nothing, but doing it with Lou’s money. Adam is mentioned in the beginning as having written a bestselling book, but he’s out of the picture.
When Lou is shot at a party he’s hosting, Nick and Jacob decide to put him in the Hot Tub Time Machine to go back a day and prevent his murder. Instead, they land a decade in the future, and without a clear-cut way to get back. Through a series of convoluted reasonings, they end up connecting with Adam’s son, Adam Jr. (Adam Scott), whose existence points to being in an alternate universe.
It’s…not exactly complicated. Convoluted is more accurate.
Again, the first film wasn’t great, but I think the key to making the first one work in any form was the pairing of straight man Cusack with a cast of comedians in the other lead roles. This time, Cusack’s out, and Scott ends up being on the edge of straight man and comedian for most of the film. Scott’s talented, as are Corddry, Robinson and Duke to varying degrees, but where the first film positioned Cusack as the nominal lead, Corddry is the closest to a lead in this film. And the character of Lou is not a good choice for a lead. I don’t believe that leads need to be sympathetic by design, but a character like Lou is so vile and disgusting that he’s more of a villain than anything.
The film also doubles down on the humor of the first film, in all of its occasional racism, casual misogyny and frequent homophobia. To focus on the last part, the amount of gay panic “jokes” here are astonishing in their frequency, and not just from Lou. There’s a good five minutes of the film dedicated to one sequence involving gay sex between multiple characters that also doubles as a rape scene, and it’s not something that could theoretically work with some alterations. It’s just not funny.
Is there an audience for this film? Honestly, I didn’t think there was that much of an audience for the last film, and I’m surprised there’s a sequel. There are so many better films out there, though, even for those who want a crass comedy. Just let the tub be drained and watch something else.