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26 Feb 2015

Sequel Sans Star: Without John Cusack, There's No Reason for 'Hot Tub Time Machine 2'

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Clark Duke, Adam Scott and Craig Robinson in Hot Tub Time Machine 2. Clark Duke, Adam Scott and Craig Robinson in Hot Tub Time Machine 2.

The primary charm and main reason for the existence of Hot Tub Time Machine was seeing John Cusack running around in the 1980s again. The secondary charm came from the antics of Rob Corddry as Lou, the suicidal heavy-metal fan who had to deal with the bullies in his past. The film was the first to really highlight Corddry’s talents—and he kicked some ass.

Now comes Hot Tub Time Machine 2, sans Cusack, and with Corddry taking the lead. Alas, the movie sort of stinks—but I’m not putting all of the blame on Corddry.

This is the king of unnecessary movie sequels. First off, without Cusack’s Adam, you are missing the main reason for the franchise’s existence. He was glue that held it all together, and without him, Corddry and his cohorts—Craig Robinson as Nick, and Clark Duke as Jacob—just run around like mad, with no sense of purpose.

The film starts in the present, with Lou living the rich life because he stole the idea for the Internet; Nick’s living it up because he’s stealing everybody’s songs (most notably those of Lisa Loeb). Lou winds up taking a shotgun to the dick; as things turn out, this wound isn’t very funny. To save Lou’s life, Nick and Jacob jump into the hot tub again (after an awkward moment with a frazzled Chevy Chase) in an effort to travel into the past to save Lou’s life. They wind up accidentally going into the future—where things make little sense.

There’s a lot of nonsense about parallel universes, along with attempts to do clever twists on time travel. None of it works. Who cares about time travel? Go to whatever time, and give the audience funny jokes. The first Hot Tub movie didn’t satisfy sci-fi geeks; it satisfied 1980s film comedy geeks—people who loved Better Off Dead and Say Anything.

Instead of Adam, we get Adam Jr.—yes, Adam’s son in the future, played by the ever-reliable Adam Scott. Scott has the film’s best jokes, including a hallucinatory drug experience and an unfortunate game-show situation. However, he shows up deep into a movie with no real sense of direction, so he’s fighting a losing battle.

Corddry gets some laughs here and there, but his jokes are mostly desperate. The same can be said for Robinson, who gets laughs early on—but those laughs wear thin by the 17th repetition of the same joke. Duke doesn’t handle the graduation from fourth-banana to third-banana very well.

This film has no business being on the big screen. If you don’t have the dough to bring a major star back, but you still want to do make a mediocre, cash-in sequel, go ahead—but send the results straight to Netflix. This is not a major motion-picture event. It’s a Thursday-night, “OK, What the hell, I got nuthin’ to do, so I’ll watch this piece of shit for a laugh or two” event.

When the closing credits are 10 times funnier than anything in the main movie, you have a serious problem. Hot Tub Time Machine 2 should mark the end of a franchise—and it should be the last time somebody tries to make a sequel of a John Cusack movie without John Cusack.

Hot Tub Time Machine 2 is playing at theaters across the valley.

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