Hot Tub Time Machine 2 works more comedic magic than the original because it begins with a much funnier premise. Most time travel movies are about sympathetic characters who want to correct past mistakes or at least learn from the future. Ostensibly, that's what the first Hot Tub Time Machine was, with a dash of R-rated raunchiness. We've never really seen a time travel movie about total A-holes. And that's what Hot Tub Time Machine 2 is really about.
Lou (Rob Corddry), Nick (Craig Robinson) and Adam (John Cusack appearing only in photos) have traded their time travel adventure for success as rock stars, investors and authors. Jacob (Clark Duke) resents them and calls them out but he's not exactly stopping them. The consequences of Lou's blatant greed actually lead to an assassination attempt, so the trio (sans Cusack) get back in the hot tub time machine to prevent Lou's murder.
We actually get twice the Hot Tub fun because the gang travels in time on more than one hilarious occasion. The film picks up with all the characters reaping the benefits of their last adventure, and everything that's happened between movies. That includes poaching pop culture and claiming it as their own, and just the extravagance of Lou's lifestyle. Then when they time travel to the future, we get to see the results of another 10 years of living the Lou, Nick and Jacob life. That comes with some ridiculous future technology as well as unexpected character developments.
It's unfortunate the film feels the need to have a plot because it works best as a series of random time travel jokes. The plot of traveling to the future is a murder mystery as the gang tries to retroactively solve Lou's murder, but the film is truly unapologetic about its characters. Lou especially, but they all behave irresponsibly. That's actually the Hot Tub Time Machine franchise's strength. It's the only time travel franchise about D-bags through time. It's okay to enjoy that irresponsibility because there's always some form of comeuppance, which usually takes it to an even greater extreme. I imagine a lot of the funniest bits in the movie are improv riffs where the actors just went on and on, so we get to see the funniest jokes in the movie.
Robinson, Corddry, and Duke see their future selves, Paramount Pictures
In the future they meet Adam's son (Adam Scott) who becomes the fourth member of their gang. He does a run naming TV shows of the future that I can only imagine he made up on the fly, and I'd love to hear the names of shows that didn't make the final cut. A lot of the jokes rely on movie references, but it's pop culture they're commenting on, and acknowledging the time travel legacy. They even acknowledge that they're doing bits, in some of the funniest, most perceptive self-referential comedy on the rule of threes. Some of it is just absurd, but it's all a total delight.
Hot Tub Time Machine 2 definitely skirts lines of homophobia and female objectification, but it's possible it's just aware enough to be progressive, forwarding acceptance for bisexuality and making fun of the men that live to objectify. Or maybe it's just nudity and wiener jokes.
It really seems like Hot Tub Time Machine 2 figured out what worked about the first one and focused on that. Without one of the lead characters, that's pretty impressive. Forget trying to sympathize with these idiots and just embrace the hilariously dangerous potential of their powerful hot tub time machine.