The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Hot Tub Time Machine 2

John Cusack is one of the most talented actors of his generation, but his career has devolved to a point where he seems to take every low-rent paycheck movie that comes along, as Drive Hard and The Numbers Station will attest. It's a bit of a surprise, then, that he opted out of a sequel to Hot Tub Time Machine, one of the few genuine hits of his career so far this decade. His presence isn't really missed, though. There's enough comic talent on display in Hot Tub Time Machine 2 to fill up several movies. But as with the original, this sequel squanders everything potentially amazing about itself.

We meet the non-Cusack characters in a present day that their previous time traveling has created, largely for their own benefit. Lou (Rob Corddry) has more or less invented Google; he's just changed the name to “Lougle.” Nick (Craig Robinson) has found fame and fortune plagiarizing some of the most ubiquitous hit songs of the last twenty years. Only Jacob (Clark Duke) is floundering. He's stuck working as a butler for the egomaniacal, drug-addicted Lou.

During one of Lou's self-aggrandizing parties, a mysterious figure shoots him. To save his life, Nick and Jacob throw him in the hot tub so they can go back in time and prevent the murder attempt. Instead, they end up in 2025. Lou should be dead, but he isn't. The guys have to solve the mysteries of how this is possible and how to prevent past-Lou from dying. They get help from new friend Adam (Adam Scott), the son of Cusack's character in the original, who is engaged to be married to a woman named Jill (Community's Gillian Jacobs). Escapades in the future have a direct impact on everyone's lives when they finally get back to present day.

Hot Tub Time Machine 2 has the same problem that its predecessor did. Director Steve Pink and screenwriter Josh Heald have a lot of great individual ideas, but lack the focus to tie them all into something meaningful. The movie largely shuttles the search for Lou's shooter to the side, instead stringing together a series of bizarre Isn't the future wacky? scenarios. Nick ends up on a weird game show. Adam takes a new synthetic drug and goes on a bizarre psychedelic trip. Lou has a series of clashes with a sentient smart car. It's not that these things aren't funny, it's that they aren't supporting any kind of story that would maximize their comic value. Hot Tub Time Machine 2 plays like a film in outline form, where the bullet points are all on the page, but no one has connected them together yet.

For this reason, the most amusing stuff is generally found in the margins: the goofball lovey-dovey vibe created by Scott and Jacobs, the ad libs of Robinson and Corddry, an admittedly killer Caddyshack reference from Chevy Chase, who briefly reprises his role as the hot tub repairman. A moment where the main characters break the fourth wall is kind of amusing, too. Perhaps the most clever thing of all is that the band OK GO recorded a truly awesome, Jacob-inspired theme song to play over the end credits, entitled “You're a Fucking Nerd and No One Likes You.”

The movie could have been something special had all these different things been assembled more strategically. Goodness knows, this cast is golden. Time travel comedies are best when they take their plots at least a little bit seriously. Back to the Future is the ultimate winner on that count. Hot Tub Time Machine 2 uses time travel merely as a hook to allow for a lot of raunchy, loosely connected mini-skits that ultimately go nowhere. It'll be a passable time-killer on cable someday. As a full-fledged theatrical experience that you have to pay for...well, let's just say that it's no Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure.

( out of four)

Hot Tub Time Machine 2 is rated R for crude sexual content and language throughout, graphic nudity, drug use and some violence. The running time is 1 hour and 33 minutes.

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