“This shit’s pretty flat, bro.”
So sayeth the rudest man in the world, who just happened to be sitting behind me at the screening for Hot Tub Time Machine 2. He began the evening sitting in front of me; deliberately stealing a seat marked ‘Studio Representative’ so he could talk to the beautiful publicist. Shockingly, she rebuffed his drunken advances. “Whatever, bro,” he dismissively burped, and then ambled to the seat behind me. Yes, he’s the guy who calls both men and women ‘bro.’ He’s also the guy who talks through the entire movie, eats handfuls of popcorn with his mouth wide open (ostensibly, so he can still breathe), and kicks the back of the seat like a bored child. In other words, he’s the target audience for Hot Tub Time Machine 2. It’s a bad sign, then, that he laughed a grand total of two times during the entire film. That was exactly two more times than I laughed.
The inevitable third installment of the tepid Hot Tub Time Machine franchise should go completely Meta; sending the actual actors back in time to stop this disastrous sequel from being made. Stridently unfunny, this unimaginative sequel illustrates the danger of stretching a 5-minute comedy sketch into a feature length film (or two films, in this case). Ironically, the one properly constructed joke in its excruciating 90-minute runtime is a glorified comedy sketch that has nothing to do with the central story. The improvised charms of its predecessor, though few, are an embarrassment of riches compared to the limp one-liners and uninspired sight gags of Hot Tub Time Machine 2. To further underscore the cynicism of this blatant cash grab, the filmmakers have tacked on an entertaining end-credits sequence (ala 22 Jump Street) that might leave people laboring under the delusion they just watched a funny movie.
This steaming pile of cinematic poo finds our 3 remaining heroes (John Cusack didn’t need a time machine to predict this train wreck) traveling into the future to save Lou (Rob Corddry) from being murdered. That Lou’s shotgun blast to the dick constitutes the least painful thing that happens to male genitalia in Hot Tube Time Machine 2 shows what little regard these filmmakers hold for their loathsome and unsympathetic characters. Lou is a straight-up psychopath who cackles hysterically when physical harm befalls his friends. Jacob (Clark Duke) is a sleazy, suicidal drug addict who functions as the “brains” of the operation. Even the normally reliable Craig Robinson (as Nick) is reduced to scraping the bottom of the barrel in movie that thinks wacky wigs and dick jokes are cutting-edge comedy. The lack of humanity on display here reminds one of a Michael Bay film, where each character is ridiculed through a series of increasingly-demeaning scenes. In the end, these characters are simply too pitiful to laugh at.
Director Steve Pink returns for the sequel, bringing back Josh Heald as his lone writer. Together, they destroy any goodwill engendered by the predecessor, which functioned nicely as a reasonably-entertaining standalone. The grueling first act of Hot Tub Time Machine 2 spends its time detailing the rewards and riches heaped upon our morally bankrupt heroes for their systematic raping of the past. Watching a video montage of Nick’s stolen pop-music classics is mildly amusing, but it quickly degenerates into a tiresome exercise in name-checking. Look, it’s Lisa Loeb! Whoa, isn’t that Nirvana?!? Hey, I just drooled all over myself with boredom! It only gets worse from here, with the threadbare plot leading our hapless characters into one ill-conceived skit after another.
Simply, this film is doomed by its miscalculated premise. Whereas the charm of its predecessor lay in the unintended consequences of meddling with the past, this sequel ill-advisedly rockets into the future. To get the same kind of timeline manipulations, we need tons of space-time contortions that are neither funny nor logical. “It always goes back to The Terminator,” our heroes quip. Luckily, James Cameron is too busy counting money to worry about his complicity in such moronic folly.
The sole addition to the cast is Adam Scott as Cusack’s son. Like every other character, he’s given one distinguishing characteristic—his naiveté—and then thrown into the lackluster abyss. Scott is a capable comedic actor, as are Corddry and Robinson, but he’s simply overmatched by this awful material. Even the clearly improvised scenes, such as a game of “You look like…” (based on the Rudd-Rogen “You know how I know you’re gay?” riff from Knocked Up) feel unrefined and stale. The entire film plays like a hastily-assembled rough cut. Jokes, visuals, and edits are cobbled together with seemingly no regard for quality or laughs. Setups and payoffs take a backseat to lazy jibes and pop culture references. It’s as if the filmmakers had a callous disregard for everything that made the first film mildly enjoyable.
People like to say that comedy is subjective; personal tastes dictate whether a movie is funny or not. In the case of Hot Tub Time Machine 2, however, these people are dead wrong. No amount of subjective or objective analysis can yield any other conclusion: this movie is simply not funny. It turns out that sometimes the shit is, indeed, just flat, bro.