Box Office Democracy: Hot Tub Time Machine 2
There’s a certain amount of bravery in making a movie like Hot Tub Time Machine 2. Not, you know, actual bravery because making a sequel is usually an admission that the studio would rather take the money than make a clever new film but comedy sequels are almost always terrible. In a sequel you’re selling the promise of the same thing but good comedy comes from being able to surprise your audience. While there are comedy sequels that succeeded in being funny enough (Addams Family Values, 22 Jump Street, and Back to the Future Part II jump out at me) none of them ever rise to the level of their original and are usually, at best, tolerated. Hot Tub Time Machine 2 is, at least, a tolerable movie but if it were five years from now and both were on Netflix I can’t imagine a scenario where I chose it over the original film.
The bravest part of making Hot Tub Time Machine 2 was the moment in production when it became clear John Cusack would not be returning. Deciding to push on with a second movie without the lead actor for the first film is a brave choice. Adam Scott slots in to the role as the son of Cusack’s character from the future. Scott is only 7 years younger than Cusack but somehow feels decades younger and totally appropriate as his son. They kind of hand wave his absence with a couple lines of dialogue about how they never see their friend Adam anymore but there’s a hole in the center of the ensemble now. We’ve lost the character with the most serious arc from the first film and are left struggling to care about characters that were mostly used to deliver punch lines in the first film.
Hot Tub Time Machine 2 is funny but it’s an empty kind of funny. I laughed frequently and had a good time throughout but none of the jokes had any kind of real weight. The movie is content to get laughs the easy way by being gross or doing slapstick or even doing long runs on characters telling other characters what they look like and there’s nothing wrong with any of that, they’re good funny jokes but at some point you need to get to something a little more substantive or decide your movie doesn’t need to be two hours. Hot Tub Time Machine 2 is comedy cotton candy and while I’m a fan of cotton candy I wouldn’t want to eat it for an entire meal and there’s a point where they cross that line here.
Ultimately Hot Tub Time Machine 2 feels like watching the hour-long stand-up special from a comedian who just isn’t quite ready. The jokes are good but there’s precious little thread connecting them. Things are funny and then they aren’t and a few jokes feel like they needed just a bit more seasoning and fall flat (no one would respond to the apparent death of their close friend by suggesting that they’re now in heaven raping angels). There’s a lot of talent here and a fantastic energy but they would have done better holding it back for a time when the pieces could be combined in to something really special rather than cashing in now for the easy money. Kind of funny but ultimately forgettable is the beginning and end here and it’s a shame.