Part of what made Hot Tub Time Machine so oddly compelling was the vision of a middle-aged John Cusack exploring the roots and life trajectory of an archetype he at least partially originated; there was a measure of genuine regret to what Cusack’s Adam and his cronies were going through. The absence of this modicum of personal reflexivity in Hot Tub Time Machine 2 is noticeable way before Nick Webber (Craig Robinson) essentially rapes Adam’s son, Adam Jr. (Adam Scott), in a virtual-reality simulation, a routine barbarism on Choozy Doozy, America’s favorite television show in 2025. Much like Back to the Future II, Hot Tub Time Machine 2 series sends our heroes—Nick, Jacob (Clark Duke), and grotesquely selfish Lou (Rob Corddry)—into the future rather than back into the past, where they mean to find out who, in 2015, shot Lou in the dick. It’s less fun than that sounds, somehow.
Indeed, when the filmmakers aren’t half-assing rehashes of the best jokes from the first film, they’re creating a shallow pageant of debauchery and stale, churlish humor. Nick’s virtual raping of Adam Jr. is blatantly set up as a variation on the blowjob bar bet from the original, and they double-down on the “Lougle” plotline that concluded that film as well. Even the smaller gags are repeated, and it’s to the credit of the central comedians that they’re able to root out a few smart, zingy one-liners and taunts (Robinson and Corddry’s “you’re a nerd and no one likes you” duet is a high point). The whodunit structure allows for more jokes than overt plotting or backstory, but Josh Heald’s script takes the easy way out, ending the film with a torrent of slapdash sentimentality, wherein Lou gives up the booze and Nick spends more time at home. This sudden yes-we-can cap on an otherwise juvenile, desperately crass, and gleefully cynical mess only goes to underline the tremendous indifference and opportunism expressed by all those involved and evident in nearly every scene. Unlike its predecessor, Hot Tub Time Machine 2 is exactly as pointless and stupid as its title suggests.