Of all the movies ever made about time travel, “Hot Tub Time Machine 2” is the most recent one.
Figured I’d dispense with niceties at the top and take it from there.
Given the considerable comedic talents of Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson, Adam Scott et al., and the ragged, what-the-hell charms of the original “Hot Tub Time Machine,” it’s surprising how rotten this movie is from start to finish. It’s a dull, lazy, scattershot would-be comedy about a group of mostly unlikable characters who have all the depth of the Three Stooges in the Curly Joe era.
We start in the present day. Former sad sacks Lou (Corddry) and Nick (Craig Robinson) are both famous, immensely wealthy — and devoid of moral compasses. Lou is a megalomaniacal billionaire who invented the search engine known as “Lougle” (get it?) while Nick is a superstar recording artist, ripping off the works of everyone from Nirvana to Lisa Loeb to the Black Eyed Peas by “writing” their songs before they come along. (John Cusack’s Adam appears only as a photograph and a point of reference. Good move, Cusack.)
Nick mistreats the director on the set of his latest video shoot and neglects his shrill wife (Kellee Stewart), who complains long and loud because Nick would rather go to the Grammys then spend time at her sister’s.
Lou is a much worse human being. He dresses like a washed-up rock star, verbally abuses his executive staff, tells his wife (Collette Wolfe) he hates her and is nothing short of cruel to his son Jacob (Clark Duke). Lou’s idea of a good time is to cackle wildly whenever his son is humiliated.
If this setup sounds like a tricky premise for a comedy, ding-ding-ding.
And then it gets worse.
After Lou is murdered (he’s shot in the crotch, of course), Nick and Jacob drag him into the Hot Tub Time Machine. Queue an annoying drinking-and-drugging montage, cut to the morning after — and the guys are in the year 2025, which looks almost exactly like the year 2015.
The fortunes of Lou, Jacob and Nick have changed drastically over the decade. But Lou is still a jerk, Nick’s kind of a nitwit and Jacob is a marshmallow. When the three of them aren’t standing around insulting each other, they’re stumbling through a rice-paper-thin plot that has them half-heartedly searching for the identity of Lou’s assassin so they can go back in time and stop him before he shoots.
Mostly, though, they party. Director Steve Pink is a big fan of “crazy,” quick-cut montages meant to replicate the hallucinatory experiences of the characters onscreen. That makes one big fan of such montages.
And it wouldn’t be a low-rent comedy without the obligatory “gay sex is the WORST” scene, which plays out on a nationally televised game show hosted by Christian Slater — and as bad as that sounds, I don’t think I can do justice to how truly, painfully unfunny it really is.
It’s been five years since “Hot Tub Time Machine” had a nice box office run, grossing $50 million domestically and then enjoying mild cult status on home video and cable. That’s enough of a real-world timeline for somebody to have come up with an idea for a sequel that would actually have been worth doing.
But what we got was the comedy movie equivalent of a football “walk-through” practice, where the players don’t wear full equipment and they go at half-speed.
We get a dozen references to other time travel and parallel-universe films and TV shows, all of them much better than this movie. Adam Scott from “Parks and Recreation” and Gillian Jacobs from “Community” are added to the mix as 2025 characters, but Jacobs is underused and Scott’s role is an embarrassment.
“Hot Tub Time Machine 2” closes on a note that seems to promise a third entry in the franchise.
Threat would be more like it.