Saturday 9 May 2015

Hot Tub Time Machine 2 (2015) - Movie Review

The plot: At a party hosted by the now rich and successful Lou (Rob Corddry), he is shot dead by an unknown assailant. His best friend Nick (Craig Robinson) and his son Jacob (Clark Duke) take him to the relocated Hot Tub Time Machine and travel into the future in the hopes of tracking down his killer, enlisting Adam Yates Jr. (Adam Scott) in their search.

Even though it took me a while to really get into it, I really liked the first Hot Tub movie. I initially couldn’t stand it because of how thoroughly abrasive Lou’s character was, but over the course of the film, it not only got me to like him but to actively root for him as well as dig into the funny writing, likeable cast and really nice 80’s rock soundtrack. Oh, and Craig Robinson performing Let’s Get It Started by The Black Eyed Peas was pretty awesome too. I was initially apprehensive about checking it out, but afterwards I was actively looking forward to the sequel, even with its extremely low Rotten Tomatoes score. Then I saw it… and I felt genuine betrayal for the first time in a very long while. It is, frankly, unbelievable that these filmmakers and actors could fall this far below their previous material. However, I can at least say that there is a very, very simple reason why this film doesn’t work and it permeates every aspect of the production: Laziness.

The comedy here goes beyond just being lowbrow trash, even though it does induce a chuckle once or twice, and into the realm of crossing a genuine line for me. In my review for Horrible Bosses 2, I made brief mention of that film (and to a greater extent, its predecessor) making light of male rape. Since we unfortunately have another occurrence of it in this film, I will do my best to avoid any major soap-boxing but it seriously irks that this needs to explained: Rape isn’t funny. Ever. Regardless of context, regardless of gender, regardless of anything, rape should never be used as a joke; as much as I love George Carlin, there is a difference between talking about rape as a joke and actually showing it as such.

In this film, it exists as a result of a failed attempt at reality television satire with Choozy Doozy, a game show about dares that apparently always ends in sex; to cut a long story short, it results in Nick and Adam Jr. being forced to bang live on TV. Sure, the scene sneaks in some subtle acknowledgement that male couplings aren’t as taboo in the future (read: 10 years from now) as they are now, but when that acknowledgement is used for shit like this, it just adds another layer of vile to this whole thing. Of course, while this may be the most egregious point the attempts at comedy end up reaching, it is by no means the only low point. The writing here has resorted to leaning on and over-explaining the punchlines for its jokes, not to mention extending them far beyond their necessary durations; the "You look like" bits and the Nerd Song recitations are easily the two biggest offenders in that regard, making for the kind of comedy that is only one notch above that in That’s My Boy. The latter especially hurt because it is a running joke aimed solely at Jacob, the one character who seems to be putting any effort into making this thing watchable.

The plot is all over the place, both in terms of time travel logic and character development. The previous film had a better grasp on the finer points of the continuum than a lot of timeline bending works out there; by contrast, there isn’t even a token attempt at keeping things straight here. It tries to do its own rendition of Back To The Future Part II, in one of its many, many (failed) attempts to subvert the adage of never referencing a better movie in middle of your shitty one, but it seems to have forgotten a key part of Doc Brown’s explanation of the alternate reality: “…if we travel into the future from this point in time, it will be the future of this reality.” Look up the words "Duane T. Gish", "2nd Law of Thermodynamics" and "intentional misquoting", and you’ll understand how much leaving out part of a sentence can completely mangle scientific theory.

To put it simply, a film called Hot Tub Time Machine 2 should not be this difficult to keep up with in terms of temporal mechanics. The mangled timeline isn’t helped by the rather piss-poor road signs made by Nick’s pop song stealing, all of which occurs years after the originals were meant to be recorded. All of this leads into a cranial atom bomb of an ending which somehow manages to one-up The Wedding Ringer in terms of flipping off the audience; it manages to render its own plot, ending and subsequent character development all moot in the space of five seconds and then proceeds to punch logic in the face repeatedly for the rest of the end-credits scene (Yeah, no use sticking around for that one… at all) I get the feeling that time travel being this convoluted is part of the joke, but when the first film did such a good job of playing it straight, I’m not laughing; I’m just shaking my head in disappointment.

But by far, the worst writing sin committed here is in relation to the characters. The plot here deals with character assassination in more ways than one; they took Lou, someone I initially hated the instant I saw him and then eventually grew to root for, and made him into an even worse person that I ever saw him as before. He started out as someone who, while begrudgingly, still tried to keep past events as they happened before without affecting history at first when he had no idea what the result would be; now, he frequently goes out of his way to screw things up and shows little to no regard for his mission, when said mission involves preventing his own death!

Add to that the fact that all development he undertook has been completely removed from the first film and reducing him to being in no way likeable to listen to, and all the hurrying to save his sorry ass elicits no caring from me either. Sure, they try to redeem him as a character by essentially admitting how despicable he is, but by the time they get around to that no form of character self-awareness is capable of saving it. As for the resolution of his murder plot, no spoiler tag this time because anyone who has done the outlandish notion of looking at the poster for the film should already know who did it; seriously, it isn’t hidden well in the slightest. There’s also a subplot involving Nick’s music career in the future, which is interesting if only for how it started with him ‘covering’ Let’s Get It Started and then going downhill in a similar fashion to BEP front-man, but it goes nowhere and any semblance of drama, or meaning at all, that could be taken from it are squashed under booted heel. Repeatedly.

All in all, this is contempt personified as there is not one element of the production that feels like it had any form of effort put into it. The acting is bland, with a particularly phoned-in Chevy Chase cameo that exists only to reference his role in Caddyshack, the writing sacrifices all effort put into making the plot make sense in favour of making Lou one of the worst human beings ever and the comedy crosses a personal line for me, securing its place on my shit list, and goes to desperate measures to try and get laughs. Aside from an alright soundtrack, which gets bonus points for including a snippet of El-P’s The Full Retard in just the right context, and Jacob doing his best to soldier on regardless of the bullshit surrounding him, this is a truly hateful follow-up. This is the anti-Leviathan, in that it seems to get actively worse and worse the more time passes. If you liked the first film, just stay at home, watch that one again and forget that this film even exists.

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