It’s easy to see why John Cusack took a flyer on the new D.O.A. sequel, Hot Tub Time Machine 2. It’s a comedy that’s so witless and unfunny and shoddily made it makes The Hangover 2 look like The Godfather 2. The 2010 original, which was pretty threadbare to begin with, at least had the nudge-in-the-ribs pleasure of seeing Cusack warp back to the decade and genre he got his start in via a mystical Jacuzzi. Without him, though, the whole enterprise pretty much goes up in smoke. It has no reason to exist other than as a shameless cash grab.
Making matters worse is that in Cusack’s absence, Rob Corddry has been promoted to leading man. I don’t mean to completely write Corddry off as a comedian or an actor–I’ve liked him on occasion. But a little goes a long way for me. And he’s such a bitter shot glass of bile in this movie I had an almost physical reaction every time he came on screen – something between an outbreak of hives and a fit of dry heaves. With the knowledge gleaned from their visit to the past in the first film, Corddry’s Lou has set himself up as a billionaire tech mogul who minces around like a debauched rock god in a spandex jumpsuit, a codpiece, and a flowing hair-metal wig that seems lifted from the album cover of Dokken’s Under Lock and Key. Meanwhile, Craig Robinson’s Nick has become a superstar songwriter by stealing other artists’ hits before they write them, and Clark Duke’s doughy dork motormouth Jacob continues to humiliate himself as Lou’s butler. The only time I laughed in the entire movie was when Craig Robinson compared his appearance to the Gerber baby’s.
At one of Lou’s bacchanalian parties, he’s shot in the crotch by a mysterious assassin and the boys carry him to the magical hot tub to zip back into the past and figure out who shot him and why and change the course of history yet again. Naturally, complications ensue (as they will) and they end up 10 years into the future. Kind of. It’s actually more of a Moebius Strip alternate future (“like Fringe”, Jacob jokes several times). There, screenwriter Josh Heald lets loose a wheezy barrage of pop culture gags about president Neil Patrick Harris and Jennifer Lawrence’s star turn in the Meryl Streep biopic, Streepin’ it Real. Jesus wept.
Just as I was about to abandon all hope, the always-welcome Adam Scott showed up as Cusack’s alternate-universe son to saddle up with the three dim-bulb time travelers and suss out the identity of Lou’s crotch blaster. But even he can’t rescue material this god-awful. Instead, he jumps right into the slew of gay-panic jokes, gross-out vomit gags, and punchlines that, contrary to director Steve Pink’s apparent belief, don’t get any funnier no matter how many times you repeat them. My only wish is that I could go back in time and watch Hot Tub Time Machine 2 with somebody else’s eyeballs. D