There’s nothing that baffles Hollywood types more than the unexpected R-rated comedy hit. It’s those flicks that usually get a mid-range budget, usually have a cast of good comedic actors, but not household names, and are made by people who aren’t Judd Apatow. These are never expected to do very well, but sometimes they inexplicably do, and when they do, there’s a moment where everybody says “Uhh, okay…well, should we make a sequel?” Horrible Bosses is a recent example of this, an inexplicably successful foul-mouthed comedy that I guess warranted a sequel that was dumb and retread the same ground as before. That sequel did not do very well, and for good reason; it wasn’t good. But it’s not in isolation, because the several-times-pushed-back Hot Tub Time Machine 2 is out this weekend and it too is stupid, despite some genuine chuckles.
Directed by Steve Pink and written by Josh Heald, both from the first movie, Hot Tub Time Machine 2 is the kind of movie nobody really asked for, some people might be interested in, and everybody will forget almost immediately. It’s got funny moments, but it relies almost entirely on overplayed bits instead of actual humor, even though, it has to be said, the cast are some of the funniest people working today and riff their way into making me laugh a few times. But, really, none of the characters are likable even if the actors are, so what exactly is it we’re rooting for here? That they succeed? I don’t want them to succeed.
The story picks up after the events of the first film (duh) in a 2015 which Adam (John Cusack, a.k.a Sir Not Appearing in This Film) is entirely absent, having written a hugely popular sci-fi novel based on their ski lodge adventures, Nick (Craig Robinson) has become a pop superstar after ripping off songs that hadn’t been written yet, Lou (Rob Corddry) has become an internet and software magnate/rock star, and Jacob (Clark Duke) is his father Lou’s butler, and still picked on incessantly. While things initially seem to be going okay for the characters who are actually in the movie, another of Lou’s raucous parties ends with him near death and Nick and Jacob have to get him into the Hot Tub Time Machine to go back and save him. EXCEPT, because of plot convenience and things, they end up in 2025, which means the murderer is from there and not the present. In the future, Jacob’s the billionaire and the other two are has-beens. They travel around looking for people who might have wanted to kill Lou, and eventually find Adam’s grown son, Adam Jr. (Adam Scott), the squeaky clean dork who is about to get married to the equally squeaky Gillian Jacobs. A debauched and self-destructive future adventure follows.
Now, most of this would be fine and, huge amounts of swearing aside, it’d be a pretty harmless exercise in sequelization, however there’s something I need to point out about modern “Bro” comedies, of which this film is one and is supremely guilty: A huge chunk of this movie is spent on an “outrageous” scenario in which, oh shit dude! two of the characters are forced to engage in sexual activity for the amusement of the hedonistic future society. Now while this is messed up in a number of different ways, why must there always be this punchline where THE VERY IDEA OF MEN HAVING SEX WITH EACH OTHER is horrific and therefore hilarious? No, neither of the parties involved are gay, and I suppose the argument is that it was their own homophobia that resulted in this situation, but that’s not comeuppance, it’s just more homophobia. The joke is still that men having sex is grotty and should be ridiculed. This is the year of the hoverboard and we’re still having this kind of backwards, heteronormative joke stuck in the middle of a movie that also, let’s just point out, objectifies women to a lecherous degree. Just because the characters are stupid and their views on things are wrong doesn’t mean the film needs to accentuate this. We’re not laughing at the homophobes for their homophobia; we’re meant to laugh at them because they have to do gay stuff. Anyway, it’s just irritating.
So, as you can guess, I didn’t like this movie. It’s mostly just a bunch of who-gives-a-crap, though the actors, especially Duke and Scott, give really funny performances and there are some decent meta jokes that gave me a laugh. Still, when the most notable thing about your movie is its continued reliance on recycled ideas and puerile stupidity, it doesn’t make it destined for much else beyond a casual “Ha.”