By Devon Shuman, For The Miami Student
R-rated comedies are unique.
Unlike the censored world of PG-13's and PG's in which the ruthless MPAA reigns supreme, movies with R ratings give their writers and their actors full comedic freedom. They can utilize their whole arsenal of humor, including sexual innuendoes and all the beautiful swear words the English language has to offer, to get the audience to laugh. In fact, most of the best comedies of the past few years have come with R ratings: "The Hangover," "Stepbrothers," "Superbad," just to name a few.
This is why "Hot Tub Time Machine 2" was such a disappointment. Even with free roam, the writers and actors resorted to cheap humor that included, but was not limited to, long, adlibbed insult challenges that were reminiscent of grade school "Yo Mama" fights.
Let's get one thing straight. The original "Hot Tub Time Machine" was good. It wasn't great, and by no means did it warrant a sequel, but at least it was unique. The story followed four friends: Adam (John Cusack), Nick (Craig Robinson), Lou (Rob Corddry), and the younger Jacob (Clark Duke) who, after one raucous night in a ski resort hot tub, wake up to find themselves in 1986. Now back in time, they had the opportunity to relive a particularly memorable weekend that had a major effect on all of their lives. Cheesy? Of course. But at least it wasn't afraid to put a new spin on the time travel genre. Movies about time-travelling hot tubs are not inherently bad.
This time around, the boys have all been getting rich by going back into the past and ripping off future ideas before they happen. Lou creates Lougle, an online search engine. Nick steals pop songs from artists who haven't even written them yet. Basically, since we have last seen them, these characters have been participating in the most extreme form of plagiarism.
At one of his extravagant parties, Lou is speaking to all of his guests when, in an Agatha Christie-esque turn of events, the power goes out and a tuxedo-clad mystery guest steps forward and shoots Lou in his genitals. In order to find out whom the mystery killer is and stop him, Nick and Jacob travel to the future, where Lou is still alive, and search for him. If you think that none of that makes any sense, then you are not alone.
Where "Hot Tub Time Machine 2" immediately seals its own fate is in the decision to not bring back John Cusack. Although I am sure Cusack was just itching to film a sequel for a movie that must have just done wonders for his career, his character was written off as being "on a trip of self-discovery."
While Cusack might not be a particularly strong comedic actor, he at least brought experience to the table. He was able to add lots of emotion to some of the original movie's more poignant scenes.
Without him in the mix, we are left with a group of B-list actors who struggle to make us laugh and only make us cry when we look at how much we paid for the movie ticket. Corddry, Robinson and Duke are all decently funny when they find themselves in big, ensemble casts (e.g. "The Office," "This is the End"), but unfortunately, without any stronger actors or comedians to feed off of, they are left out to dry. The only times I found myself laughing were at their awful attempts to recreate the emotion and nostalgia found in the first film.
The movie wasn't all bad; it had its high points. For one, it at least attempted to utilize more complicated time travel techniques. Comedies do not always make such risky moves. However, here the risk did not pay off as it failed to accurately explain the complex time travel to the audience. After much reflection, one can piece it all together, but let's face it: if the moviegoer wanted to think deeply about the movie, they would have seen "Interstellar," not "Hot Tub Time Machine 2."
Also, the addition of Adam Scott to the cast had a positive impact. As always, Scott was wonderful. Throughout his career, Scott has proven to have a quality rarely found in comedic actors: range. He can play the douchey jerk as in "Stepbrothers" and "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," or he can play the nerdy loser as in "Parks and Recreation." Here he performs the latter, playing Adam Yates-Steadmeyer, Adam's son. This Adam is timid, geeky and boring, a stark contrast to the party-hard nature of the other characters. Scott nails it as usual and even manages to add some humor to the movie at some points, particularly during an outrageous drug trip scene.
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However, one bucket will not save a sinking ship, and Adam Scott's performance fails to save the utter disaster that is "Hot Tub Time Machine 2." The humor of the film relies on futuristic gimmicks that add nothing to the plot and the movie fails to strike any chords, either comedic or emotional. If it evoked any emotion in me at all, it made me wish that I could go back in time and stop myself from buying the ticket in the first place.