Hot Tub Time Machine had a clever spin on the "male midlife crisis" comedy genre, sending four dudes back to the 80s to relive their best weekend. And now there's a sequel, which doubles down on the time-travel hijinks, but also goes all-in on the gross-out dude-bonding humor. Spoiler-o-rama...
The best thing about Hot Tub Time Machine 2 is that it picks up where the first movie left off — with a pretty absurd, reality-warping ending. And instead of trying to walk that back, the new film just plunges ahead into sillier and sillier reality-warps.
It's an alternate reality, where Lou (Rob Corddry) was the lead singer of Motley Crue (or rather, Motley Lou) and also founded Google (or rather, Lougle.) The other three guys were obsessed with "preserving the timeline" and tried to avoid making any changes to the past, while Lou had the good sense to just go for it and rewrite history.
Now Lou is a super-rich rock star who's slowly running his tech company into the ground, and meanwhile Nick (Craig Robinson) is a pop singer who's made his career out of preemptively ripping off songs by other artists. And Lou's son Jacob (Clark Duke) is still kind of a loser.
But after Lou gets shot in the dick, he and the others have to go into the hot tub to save him. And for reasons too convoluted to go into, they wind up going forward in time 10 years, to witness a trippy near future full of virtual reality game shows, super-drugs, hoverboards, sentient self-driving cars, and other shit.
Actually, almost every plot point in Hot Tub Time Machine 2 involves Rob Corddry's penis one way or the other. My first thought, walking out of HTTM 2, was "Did I just watch a 90-minute dick joke?" To which the answer is: Yeah, pretty much. I haven't seen any of the Hangover movies, but I imagine this sequel bears about the same relation to the first Hot Tub Time Machine as Hangover 2 did to The Hangover: everything's just a bit more jizz-covered and less light-touched.
(In the future, instead of the ipad, we have the dick-pad, which is basically an ipad with a hole in the middle, that one can stick one's dick into.)
One major plot point in the film that doesn't revolve around Lou's dick is that a guy gets nanotech in his testicles, which causes them to swell up, and when the nanotech is removed via syringe there's some leakage, which means everybody gets covered with ball juice. (See the top image for a representation of that scene.) There's also a whole storyline involving coerced man-on-man sex, which is played for laughs (although the characters later debate briefly whether this was rape or just quasi-rape.)
The loss of John Cusack, who chose not to return for the sequel, is keenly felt — the remaining cast are basically revolting douchebags without Cusack to make them more likable. But also, I remember reading interviews where Cusack mentioned they more or less rewrote the whole script for the first Hot Tub on the set. To rub salt in the wound, this sequel keeps showing us pictures of Cusack and the characters keep searching for him and finding clues to his whereabouts — as if he might turn up for a cameo at any moment. (He doesn't.)
And meanwhile, the movie makes a feeble stab at having character arcs — basically, because they're visiting their own futures, there's a bit of a "ghost of Christmas Future" thing going on, and the three remaining dudes each has to fix his relationship with his female love interest. Unfortunately, the women are such non-entities and the men are such walking colostomy bags, you don't really care.
But it's not all bad — every time you just want to pour a hundred gallons of bleach into this hot tub and walk away, the movie comes out with a genuinely inventive gag. And the fact that we're in the future and playing with insane time-travel mechanics means that the film has license to get a lot nuttier with its concepts. Like the aforementioned futuristic drugs. There's actually a version of Back to the Future 2's beloved "drawing a timeline diagram" sequence, as well as a lot of zany discussion of time-travel mechanics. In the context of alternate universes, Fringe gets brought up a couple times. By the end of the movie, we're fully throwing logic out the window and embracing the full potential for lunacy in time-travel.
And to the extent that there's a central joke to Hot Tub Time Machine 2 beyond "dicks LOL," it has to do with the relationship between sabotaging the timeline and self-sabotage. The movie's loathsome heroes have embraced the selfishness of rewriting history to suit themselves — and even after cheating massively, they're still kind of losers. Because they changed history, but they didn't change. Or they cheated using time travel, and they can't actually live up to their unearned status. Or something. Every now and then there's a genuinely funny bit that plays with the irony that these are the only people on Earth who aren't trapped in a single timeline, but they're still unable to escape their destiny to be wankers.
The main test of a movie like HTTM2 is whether it made you laugh — and I definitely laughed more than I did during, say, The Watch. But this is definitely a massively inferior sequel, and you'll wish you could just go back in time and watch the first Hot Tub again instead.