Harold Ramis took the family vacation movie off cruise-control in 1983, proffering a deliciously crass road trip film lead by an insolent (and borderline sociopathic) father figure in Chevy Chase and penned by none other than the mighty John Hughes. A sickly twist on nuclear morals and unadulterated, thoroughly punitive obsession, National Lampoon’s Vacation etched a dark twist on small town American dreams, couching the woes of extended family, the thirst for adventure and the troubles of enclosed spaces in with themes of adultery, abuse, abandonment and totally warped family values; with a corporate theme park ironically standing in as a last bastion of joy. Ramis’ was no small feat – he had crafted a thing of jet black social commentary that sang out with sharp barbs of comedy. Read More
Hot Tub Time Machine 2 doesn’t quite make you wish you could go back in time and stop yourself from attending…and then its characters rape each other. Yes, I mean that literally. Puerile, potty-mouthed and purposeless, this five-years-later sequel has the audacity to jettison the whole “likable losers” appeal of the original in favor of three wash-outs crashing parties in the future, solving a hackneyed murder mystery. When John Cusack can’t be bothered to join the reunion party (last year, he had four films score 10% or lower on Rotten Tomatoes), you can assume the settings are off but little can prepare you for how uninspired and piecemeal this never-should-have-happened follow-up is. Set phasers to shun.
In the aftermath of Hot Tub Time Machine, our characters have settled in nicely using their knowledge of future events to make themselves rich and famous. Lou (Rob Corddry) ripped off some Motley Crew songs (renamed *sigh* Motley Lou) before inventing Lougle (yes *sigh* that’s a rip-off of Google) to the tune of someodd billion dollars. Craig Robinson‘s (at least marginally affable) Nick has gone on to rip off countless artists from The Black Eyed Peas to Nirvana and for it is a celebrated artist struggling with identity issues. Well no shit you thieving hack. Cusack, as mentioned, is nowhere to be seen – there’s a brief mention that he penned a popular sci-fi book about Time Lords or whatnot – and we’re lead to believe that Clark Duke‘s baby-faced Jacob just vegged out on the couch and didn’t pursue fame and fortune like his other time traveling cohorts.
Corddry’s Lou is an absolute dick of a human being and a test to withstand. He’s reprehensible in a most off-putting way, so much so that I couldn’t remember if he was this much of a churlish asshole in the original or if his obnoxious, off-putting nature had been ratcheted up to fit the sequel quota of “bigger is better”. Nevertheless, his dickishness leads to his near immediate demise (in a lights-flickering thunderstorm no less) and the trio is forced to travel back in time (more on this soon) to solve his murder before it ever happens.
It stands to reason that a movie with “hot tub time machine” in the title doesn’t make any sense but the time travel aspects of this film are even more misshapen and whacked out than they once were and our “heroes” wind up in the future – but a future that is still their past. Or something like that. They need to get blackout drunk in order to operate their sudsy time machine, unless screenwriter Josh Heald deems that there’s not enough time to get into another pill-popping, cocaine-eating montage and then it just works with the press of a button. And did I mention that the characters at one point are forced to rape each other? And I don’t mean implied rape, I mean bent-over, screaming-at-the-top-of-your-lungs rape. I just don’t know what to say…
Perhaps the most distracting element of the film is the one that sums it up best: the arrival of the etherial repairman. In the role, Chevy Chase throws down one of the worst cameo appearances of all time, reprising his shtick as a “grandfather time” figure in what might just be the least enthusiastic onscreen appearance of the last decade. You couldn’t have paid him money to make him look less happy to be there. But that pretty much sums up the film in its entirety though: a bunch of people wondering what they’re doing in the midst of a completely defunct comedy. It’s not really a shock that director Steve Pick (Hot Tub Time Machine, About Last Night) falls so hard on his face but it’s nonetheless embarrassing to watch.
Robinson, newcomer Adam Scott and even Corddry give it their all – and do manage to cull some immature laughs with their frequent, obviously improvised riffing – but it’s just far too little in a film that’s far too creatively barren. The actors hack at each other as best they can but their comedy is crude, mean-spirited, cheap and often just sad. In summation: the characters are forced to rape each other.