Review: Aggressive Comedy Rubs Raw in 'Hot Tub Time Machine 2'
by Jeremy Kirk
February 22, 2015
What could be more ridiculous than a Hot Tub Time Machine? How about a sequel? Gratuitous as it may seem, Hot Tub Time Machine 2 has found its way to theaters five short years after its absurd and hysterical predecessor. Extraneous? Sure. Once you’re familiar with the title of the film all questions of whether or not it’s called for get swept aside. The real question here is, “Is this film funny in the slightest?” Simply, yes, Hot Tub Time Machine 2 is hilarious. Bringing three of the four leads back from the first film – the funniest three, by the way – this second film twists the aggressive comedy dial hard to the right and with a brazen attitude. It’s as if the film dares you to be disgusted, and, to an extent, it succeeds. More below!
Those three returning champions of the Hot Tub Time Machine world are Craig Robinson, Rob Corddry, and Clark Duke reprising their roles as three friends who stumble upon the eponymous device. After time travelling back to 1986 in the previous film, they’ve spent the last 20 years making names for themselves, Robinson’s character recording some classic, pop hits for himself and Corddry’s character inventing his own variation of Google. Despite their personal miseries – the film’s half-attempt at actual drama – they’ve made lives for themselves full of wealth, power, and fame. All is right with the world.
That is until someone attempts to assassinate Corddry’s character, and the three must take a dip back through the space/time continuum to right their timeline’s wrongs. This time around the magical device sends the group to the future, 10 years in the future to be exact, a horrible time for our society when, *gasp*, Jon Stewart no longer hosts "The Daily Show." Though the film does posit a replacement.
Another returning champ for this Back to the Future II of Hot Tub Time Machine movies is Steve Pink, director of the first film and writer on modern classic comedies like Grosse Pointe Blank and High Fidelity. You would think he’d be a natural filmmaker when it comes to John Cusack and comedy, but he has to make due without the former in this film as well as the lack of a cool, ‘80s soundtrack.
Cusack’s absence from the sequel has barely been given an explanation, the absence for his character is roughly passed over, and Pink must rely on the original film’s supporting cast for the comedy to work here. That doesn’t seem too difficult a job. Cusack was a pretty straight player the first Hot Tub Time Machine go-around, anyway.
In Cusack’s place Pink fills his latest film with rampant humor, an endless slew of vulgar insults from which the trio of leads pick like fruit from a tree, and enough visually futuristic – and increasingly crude – gags to fill the entire Time Travel Comedy genre. It’s a small group. The comedy in Hot Tub Time Machine 2 works because of its brash attitude, aggressively tossing cynicism and harsh language with equal reckless abandon. If you thought Corddry’s character was obnoxiously crass before just wait until you see him with a couple billion dollars in his pocket.
On the other hand, if you found charm in Corddry’s antics the first time around, you’re in for a whole lot of fun this time. His character, Lou, is acceptably despicable, and, when he does learn the ways of human decency, you can rest assured he’ll be bouncing back to his old tactics faster than a sitcom. His brand of humor shows a confidence though when bounced off of Robinson and Clarke. The three almost make you forget someone important is missing from the mix. Almost.
It doesn’t help that the film continuously teases Cusack’s return (spoiler alert: he never makes an appearance though). Chevy Chase returns for all of two minutes, and Adam Scott steps up to the plate this time – playing the son of Cusack’s character – filling that fourth slot nicely. He’s playing an exaggerated version of his "Parks & Recreation" character, but dropped into the sarcastic sewage of the film’s brand of comedy is at least interesting to watch.
Hot Tub Time Machine 2 is worthwhile for the laughs it endlessly throws at the audience. There’s never anything that has you rolling so hard that you miss the next couple quips, but at least one of those will give you a good chuckle. Based on numbers alone there's likely more opportunity for Hot Tub Time Machine 2 to be even more hysterical than the first. As the end credits boast there are still an overabundance of adventures to be had for the Hot Tub Time Machine crew, but without a strong straight man keeping everything grounded, the abrasive comedy begins to rub the wrong way.