HOT TUB TIME MACHINE 2 (2015)
Starring Craig Robinson, Rob Corddry, Clark Duke, Adam Scott, Gillian Jacobs, Kumail Nanjiani, Collette Wolfe, Bianca Haase, Kellee Stewart, Jason Jones, Jessica Williams, Christian Slater, Chevy Chase and Lisa Loeb.
Screenplay by Josh Heald.
Directed by Steve Pink.
Distributed by Paramount Pictures. 93 minutes. Rated R.
You may be wondering why they are making a sequel to Hot Tub Time Machine, five years after the film turned out to be a marginal hit and funnier than most people expected.
Still half a decade on, the original film is pretty much forgotten. And the original was not that good that the world is automatically a better place with more of it. So you have to wonder what exactly was the selling point when the filmmakers went to pitch a sequel.
Particularly because they were already coming in behind the eight ball. The star of Hot Tub Time Machine, John Cusack, who played the lead character, decided he wasn’t interested in taking another dip in the tub.
The female lead, a pre-Masters of Sex Lizzy Caplan, who played Cusack’s love interest, also has skipped the sequel, meaning that arguably the two most well-known actors in the film took a pass. (Possibly three if you still count Crispin Glover as being well-known, though that may be a bit of a stretch.)
So what is left? Like they say a large (hot tub) wave raises all ships, so the three sidekicks of Hot Tub Time Machine are promoted to lead roles. (Cusack is dispatched with a single picture and a vague voiceover explanation that he was off on an “experiential journey” – whatever the hell that is.)
All three are well-respected comic actors. Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson and Clark Duke are all very funny guys. In fact, you could arguably say that Corddry’s id-saturated role of Lou was the comic highlight of the original film. However, none of them are really able to carry a film on their own.
Also, Cusack’s long-time collaborator Steve Pink, who co-wrote Grosse Point Blank and High Fidelity, as well as directing the original Hot Tub and last years surprisingly strong remake of About Last Night is back on board as the director. Also the original film’s screenwriter Josh Heald wrote the sequel as well.
Unfortunately, the new film has forgotten the original film did a terrific job of balancing gross-out humor with bittersweet nostalgic regret. It doubled down on the gross out and jettisoned the intrigue that Cusack – who as an actor played some of the most interesting youth roles of the 80s – was now playing a bitter middle-aged guy who was still stuck in the past.
Corddry and Robinson don’t have this kinds of gravitas – they may have been around in the 80s, but most of us don’t remember them before the mid-00’s. Besides, the whole point of Corddry’s character is that he does not believe in self-reflection. He’s a pleasure-seeking missile, a man with no scruples or shame.
Therefore, without the bittersweet nostalgic regret of the original, the filmmakers double down on the gross out humor. Hot Tub Time Machine 2 is certainly more disgusting than the first film. It’s also not nearly as funny. And honestly, many of the jokes were variations of ones told better in the original.
As with any time-travel series, if the first film goes into the past, the new one will go into the future. In it, the guys go forward ten years to solve and avoid Lou’s 2015 murder. (He is shot in the penis. Ha Ha. Sigh.)
In order to try to paper over the huge hole in the film where Cusack (and to a lesser extent Caplan) was the filmmakers brought in a couple of hip youngsters – Adam Scott of Parks and Recreations plays Cusack’s character’s estranged son and Gillian Jacobs of Community plays his moody fiancée.
John Cusack was right to skip it. I wish the rest of them had realized that sometimes you can’t go back again.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2015 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: March 18, 2015.