A sweaty cash grab that gives a bad name to sequels in which key talent has jumped ship, Steve Pink’s “Hot Tub Time Machine 2” leaps forward rather than backward in time and sort of makes one wish the world had ended while it was en route.
Suffering from much more than awkwardness over the absence of the original’s top-billed John Cusack, though it is certainly awkward about that, the film makes us wonder why we enjoyed spending time with his three returning co-stars (Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson and Clark Duke) in the first place. Viewers who expected nothing from the first but were pleasantly surprised will get burned badly here, assuming toxic word-of-mouth doesn’t keep them from returning to these fetid waters.
Josh Heald’s screenplay shows its dearth of imagination from its opening scene, a rote, TV-newsmagazine-like explanation of what has happened to his characters since they made their leap back in time. Lou (Corddry) founded a Google-like company and became a mogul with a David Lee Roth-ish lifestyle. Nick (Robinson) had a blockbuster music career by “writing” hit songs before their actual authors were old enough to record them. Inexplicably, Lou’s son Jacob (Duke) did nothing with the advantages knowledge of future events gave him. Instead of making his own fortune, he suffers daily humiliation as his dad’s butler.
When Lou is shot in the groin by one of the many other people he has offended (groins will endure much worse fates in the film), Nick and Jacob are able to get him back to the magic hot tub in time to save him. But they accidentally wind up in 2025, not the past, initiating a bunch of temporal paradoxes that wouldn’t be worth explaining here even if they made sense. Suffice it to say “it’s like in ‘Terminator’.”
Hunting for the unknown person who has evidently traveled in time to kill Lou, they find that the future has reversed some of their fates dramatically. And while Cusack’s Adam is still nowhere to be found, his namesake son is. As Adam Jr., Adam Scott fills the cast’s likeability void nicely. But the character bears the brunt of the meanest gags in an intensely mean-spirited, arguably misogynistic film, one so dumb about its attempts to wring humor from taboos that it at one point has the victim of forcible sodomy pay a dreamy compliment to his assailant.
That rape is the centerpiece of this film, the highlight of a Christian Slater-hosted game show called “Choozy Doozy.” It’s the most popular show in America, we’re told, outperforming hit series lowbrow enough to make “Jersey Shore” sound like “Downton Abbey” in comparison. But you don’t need to go 10 years into the future to find nasty entertainment whose pauses for laughter elicit the sound of crickets.