Note to future self: Stay away from Celebrity Choozy Doozy.
That’s the most important lesson Hot Tub Time Machine 2 imparts on its viewer. There are a few others, of course, including: Steer clear of ladybug drugs; smart cars are as dangerous as they are sensitive; if you’re ever too lazy to high-five a friend, simply saying “high five” will suffice; if you’re sick, seek out Saint Nicolas Cage Hospital.
In other words, the Hot Tub Time Machine sequel paints a very bizarre picture of the future. It’s built on the back of a fallen Internet pioneer’s son, who went ahead and pioneered some technology of his own: the revolutionary masturbation pad. It’s more impressive than it sounds. But this future comes at a high cost for some — especially for Lou Dorchen (Rob Corddry).
Lou, Nick, and Jacob are flawed, rotten, irredeemable, and above all, selfish people.
Following the events of the first Hot Tub, the time-traveling buddies have all remade themselves, and history in the process. Lou is now the founder of Lougle, replacing Google as this new universe’s search engine of choice. Nick Webber (Craig Robinson) is the music mogul genius responsible for such hits as “Smells like Teen Spirit” and “Stay”; no clue what this means for Nirvana, but time-altered Lisa Loeb is not doing so hot. Likewise, things could be better for Jacob (Clark Duke), Lou’s illegitimate son. You would think that being a multi-billionaire’s son is a pretty sweet deal; not so much for Jacob, who serves as Lou’s butler.
Indeed, while Lou is living the life that so many people fantasize about, he’s an absolute nightmare for everyone around him. He is a billionaire industrialist, yes, but he is also, in a word, an asshole. Lou is such an asshole, in fact, that he’s the victim of an assassination attempt. With his manhood on the line, in more ways than one, Lou’s only hope is a quick dip in the time-warping tub; good thing he’s rich enough to have had it installed in a secret room in his mansion.
Lou, Nick, and Jacob plunge themselves into the hot-water time-stream in order to rewind the clock and stop Lou’s would-be murderer, but something goes wrong. Instead of traveling to the past, they’re catapulted into an alternate future where Lou has fallen from grace, Nick has washed out after a disastrous attempt to make original music, and Jacob… well, actually, Jacob’s doing quite well, thanks to creating the aforementioned self-pleasure device. Their one chance to set things back to the way things were is to find and stop Lou’s killer, who is also lurking somewhere in the future.
How does the murder mystery go? About as well as you can expect when you have these three monsters running around playing Sherlock Holmes. Which is to say, disastrous. Lou, Nick, and Jacob are flawed, rotten, irredeemable, and above all, selfish people. Their self-centered concerns keep them from focusing too much on the murder investigation, opting instead for all-night benders with future-drugs and attending game-shows (see: Celebrity Choozy Doozy) where contestants perform nationally televised virtual reality sex acts, among other questionable decisions. They get to the bottom of the whodunnit, eventually, but not by virtue of their deductive skills; quite the contrary, in fact.
Good thing these idiots are hilarious, at least. Credit where it’s due: Corddry, Robinson, and Duke still have fantastic chemistry from their first dip in the tub. At this point, they’re a proven laugh factory, cutting each other up with increasingly inventive insults all the way through the movie. Not every joke lands — it’s simply not possible, because everything in Hot Tub Time Machine 2 is a joke; there are no serious moments — but the ones that do are going to shred you up. This is a mean movie, and it means to make you laugh. It works more often than you might expect or want.
Good thing these idiots are hilarious, at least.
What it has in laughs, however, Hot Tub Time Machine 2 lacks in soul. As in, it does not have one. Pin a lot of that on the absence of John Cusack, the one Hot Tub lead who did not return for the sequel. (Where is Adam, anyway? According to Nick, he’s “off on an experiential journey,” making millions writing science fiction novels. “I’m sure we’ll see him again,” he says, a fourth-wall-breaking plea for Cusack to consider a Hot Tub threequel.) He was the straight man and emotional center of Hot Tub 1, and instead of attempting to fill that void, the sequel goes all-in in the other direction, presenting us with emotionally-wrecked man-children without any semblance of a moral compass.
Sight unseen, you might expect Adam Scott to fill the Cusack-shaped hole. You’d be wrong. As Adam’s future-dwelling son, Scott is the butt of many jokes, sometimes in horrifically literal ways. He’s fine, but a bit out of sync with the worn-in dynamic between Corddry, Craig, and Duke. The closest thing to an emotional center is the Lou-Jake story, as they try to find some common ground in their new relationship as father and son. It never really works; the movie’s better off when it’s nose-deep in nastiness, rather than trying to be something it isn’t.
Do the laughs matter when there’s no heart to back it up? Depends on your personal preferences. For my money, I was too busy laughing to care all that much. You don’t swim into Hot Tub Time Machine looking for life lessons — but you might walk away with some all the same. For instance, and with emphasis, because Saint Nicolas Cage knows it bears repeating: Stay. Away. From. Celebrity. Choozy. Doozy.