TR Review: Hot Tub Time Machine 2 Goes Back to the Future, Again


In an age of spoiler-phobia, I’m a little surprised by the fact that every single ad I’ve seen for Hot Tub Time Machine 2 – that’s right, every one – has spoiled the ending.

If you’ve managed to miss all of them here, don’t worry; I certainly don’t feel the need to describe it for you. But in doing that, the ads’ implication is that the movie at hand is about something very different than you might think.

It may be a distraction tactic – the first Hot Tub Time Machine was essentially a heightened satire of acknowledged influence Back to the Future, and it may be that Paramount doesn’t want you to know that the sequel follows suit as being like Back to the Future Part II, which in its day was a bit of a disappointing sequel. Yes, viewed as part of a trilogy nowadays it has grown in estimation. Younger viewers, however, may not imagine how pissed audiences in a pre-Internet age were when none of us had any idea it was going to end on a cliffhanger – with a trailer for its own sequel.


HTTM 2 spend most of its time ten years in the future, as Lou (Rob Corddry), Nick (Craig Robinson) and Jacob (Clark Duke) search for a mysterious assassin who had previously traveled back through time to kill Lou by shooting him in the balls. Along the way, they team up with the son of John Cusack’s character Adam, who is also named Adam, and conveniently played by an actor named Adam (Scott).

Condensing the Back to the Future-esque narrative some, the movie begins with the premise which that sequel only unveiled halfway through – Lou and Nick have used their knowledge of the future to become rich, horrible people, while Jacob has been a bit more restrained, having learned that Lou is his father and been traumatized and mistreated by him ever since. It’s a risky approach, since part of the hook in the first one was Lou as the epitome of a middle-aged Gen Xer who had failed to live up to his dreams of awesomeness and was about to kill himself – his redemption was vicariously ours. Now he’s just a total prick again, so much so that he enrages a future smart car, which proceeds to stalk him for the rest of the film.

While the first film had a lot going on, balancing each character’s individual subplots within a larger story, the sequel is much looser – with only minor digressions, the gang stays together throughout, and a lot of the dialogue feels like improvised riffs. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as these are funny guys, but if you were looking for a more premise-driven high concept like the original, this isn’t it – it’s more like a Will Ferrell-Adam McKay joint where the plot doesn’t matter. Suspects for the murder briefly pop up – Hi, Kumail Nanjiani! – only to be immediately shot down as red herrings. And even when the mystery is eventually solved, there’s a bit of a deflated “That’s it?” as things end with a tease for a much more interesting threequel that nobody could be bothered to plot or budget for this time around. Again, that is the Back to the Future model, and once you figure out the riff it’s not that disappointing. Unless, of course, they fail to make a third installment that ties everything together.

It’s still amusing, as in the trailers, that a comedy patterned almost entirely on one of the greatest science fiction comedies of a nerdy childhood features Corddry and Robinson teaming up for a song (written by OK Go) literally called “You’re a Fuckin’ Nerd and No-One Likes You.” That said, I really hope they submit it to the Academy Awards anyway, just for the hell of it.

[warning: music video below includes the spoiler scene that’s in every ad]

Though I can imagine Back to the Future may come up on the remake block someday (“Who’s president of the United States in 2015?” “Barack Obama” “You’re just making words up!”) Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale have pledged to protect the franchise from anything like that (“Gimme a Pepsi Max!” “Kid, I’ll get ya a Pepsi but my name’s not Max”). Frankly, I’m happier we got the ripoff version, which allows for more freedom and free-form humor, but I’d like to see them try a little harder for part 3. HTTM 2 is fine, and fun, but there’s little about it that mandates seeing on the big screen rather than waiting for Netflix.