In the past 10 years or so, the operative question in evaluating a comedy sequel has been simple: How far did it fall?
The 400-Word-Review: Hot Tub Time Machine 2
By Sean Collier
February 23, 2015
I can’t think of a 21st-century example of a sequel more hilarious than its predecessor; it’s all about a franchise’s rate of decay. 22 Jump Street was only a little bit less funny. Horrible Bosses 2 was significantly less funny, but not enough to derail the film entirely. The Hangover 2 and The Hangover 3 were unmitigated disasters offensive to the very concept of humor.
Hot Tub Time Machine 2 is in the top quadrant of that range — it’s not as funny as its inventive, self-aware predecessor, but it comes passingly close.
Lou (Rob Corddry) has exploited his knowledge of the future to become a billionaire, “inventing” Google (now Lougle) after a run as the frontman for Motley Crue (now Motley Lou). Nick (Craig Robinson) has followed a similar trajectory, writing hit songs before their actual authors have a chance to do so. Jacob (Clark Duke) mainly coasts on Lou’s success, and Adam (John Cusack in the first film) is AWOL; the characters wonder where he is, in response to Cusack’s reported disinterest in a sequel.
When a mysterious assailant tries to assassinate Lou, the boys jump back in the tub. A time slip (explained by Chevy Chase, exhibiting just as much apathy as Cusack despite being physically present) sends them to the future, however, and a new palette for improvisation, decay-of-society riffs and aggressive (but not unfunny) juvenilia.
It’s overlong, and a couple of extended bits — a smart car also wants to kill Lou! Nick has to go on a humiliating game show! — might’ve been excised. But as far as Hot Tub Time Machine 2 goes, it gets there on the skills of its under-utilized comic players. Corddry is funny in every frame, and Robinson has an uncanny power that allows him to deliver a laugh line while remaining completely deadpan and stoic. Added to the mix for the sequel are a long list of fellow unsung heroes, including Gillian Jacobs, Adam Scott, Kumail Nanjiani and Jason Jones.
I wouldn’t want the franchise to extend to a trilogy, but it’s a perfectly acceptable successor. It also demonstrates an oft-ignored rule of parody: if you’re going to wink at the audience, you’d better have a stacked arsenal of funny people to sell it.
My Rating: 7/10
Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at pittsburghmagazine.com/afterdark