Hot Tub Time Machine 2 is a well-warranted dip in familiar but friendly waters.
To have astronomically high expectations for Hot Tub Time Machine 2 is not only cocky but it’s unfair to the film at hand. Here is a film that not only boasts the title Hot Tub Time Machine but makes it the second outing with most of the same cast of the original film and a certain hot tub (not Jacuzzi) that was the centerpiece of the first film. On that basis alone, expectations have to be either neutral or slanted in the direction of dumb fun, and on that scale, Hot Tub Time Machine 2 is a well-warranted dip in familiar but friendly waters.
The film takes place not long after the events of the first film, where the gang has utilized their time-traveling/universe-altering powers to take advantage of inventing ideas they know from their own future that the general public has yet to hear about (rock and roll, Google, the internet, the iPhone, etc). We see in an opening montage that Nick (Craig Robinson) has made a career of ripping off songs from artists before they were released, like “Gin and Juice,” and Lou (Rob Corddry) has turned into a rockstar, headlining the band “Motley Lou” and become a technology mogul, inventing the search engine “Lougle,” with his pal Jacob (Clark Duke) as his butler/servant.
During a party in Lou’s honor, Lou is shot in the crotch by an unknown man in a tuxedo, leading the three to use the hot tub time machine to get back to the past to learn who shot him. The men wind up ten years in the future, where the hot tub repairman (Chevy Chase) informs them is the central location for events that effect things in the past. In addition to trying to find Lou’s assassin, the men wind up tracking down the son of their old friend Adam (played by John Cusack in the original, who decided to forgo appearing in the sequel), Adam, Jr. (Adam Scott), who helps aid in finding the culprit as well.
For a film as narratively convoluted and random as it is, it’s surprising how much positivity I emerge with after seeing Hot Tub Time Machine 2. However, because of director Steve Pink and writer Josh Heald’s desire to avoid making the idea of a time-traveling hot tub a one note joke, and instead, filling it with creativity, life, and a pleasant element of randomness, the result is a film as fun as it is raunchy. Robinson, Corddry, and Duke are all wonderfully engaging performers, bringing their own individual personalities and zingers to the table as a way of making such a project work on strong comedic levels.
The most fun the film brings is not when we’re traversing different universes, multiverses, or alternate locations, but when the characters are engaging in senseless banter. Consider when the three look themselves in the mirror in the year 2025 and see that Nick has aged dramatically, Lou has gone gray in both hair and beard, and Jacob is completely bald. A minute-long session of roasting each other takes place amongst the characters, with such jabs to the characters’ egos like “You look like the one guy who owns the house that devalues the entire neighborhood” being made to one another. Spontaneous, verbal banter like this is common in “Hot Tub Time Machine 2” amongst a lot of the situational silliness, and an equal balance prevents the film from leaning too far into either and becoming narratively lopsided.
The only issue with the film is an expected one, with the film throwing so much at the wall and hoping a solid amount sticks. That issue is that two of the film’s most prominent sight gags almost entirely fall flat on their face, doing little else besides shifting the focus from the characters to the wackiness of what Heald could concoct. It’s not a significant derailment, but it poses a minor bump in the road for a film that otherwise knows its role quite well.
Hot Tub Time Machine 2, again, as expected, won’t win over anyone who wasn’t satisfied with 2010’s introduction to the mechanism. However, in a time where there has been a raunchy-comedy drought in local multiplexes, with the only exception being last month’s equally surprising The Wedding Ringer, this film is a major-minor hit to cherish. There’s a delicate balance of situational and character-driven humor, and the setup hasn’t become degraded yet, as Heald and Pink are dedicated to making it about the innovation and possibilities of such a machine rather than the tired, previously-conceptualized ideas for it.