Lou Dorchen (Rob Corddry), Nick Webber (Craig Robinson), and Jacob “Dorchen” (Clark Duke) are reaping the fruits of their ill got future. In this alternate present, the sweetness of everyone’s perfect life offered up at the end of the last installment has proved fleeting. Where this may come a terrible shock to fans of the first HTTM, getting what you want by way of manipulating time and space can ring hollow.
Lou, toggling between hair metal icon and Internet tycoon, is a singular piece of shit. Really, a pretty good approximation of what happens when the bad, well, awful guy wins. Nick has amassed Grammys and a fortune with terrible iterations of stolen pop hits he half-remembers. A certain horn-rimmed songstress makes a cameo, and it made this Buzz Bin reared 90’s child smile. Jacob is…Jacob is pretty much still Jacob. But in being shiftless and un-bangable, he does express some conscience when it comes to their phony circumstances. Adam Jr (Adam Scott) is added to the mix as Adam’s (John “I will not be in the sequel” Cusak) son. Why? Spoiler alert and whatnot.
HTTM2 is funny. It’s broad and juvenile and unceasingly referential, both to self and pop culture. We see naked human parts of different varieties in comedic context. The cast enjoys a deep cohesion, up to the point of being downright obnoxious. Bits are offered up early and often. There are lines you might quote on the way to the parking lot. With 2014 offering fewer laughs than the slate of comedic talent might suggest, HTTM2 keeps the funny percolating. The commitment to audience laughter (or at least a cringe and a grin) is paramount. Where this may be enough—and who would begrudge you that simple joy—the film offers almost nothing else.
HTTM2 is extremely sloppy. It’s hard to define what requires less than an afterthought, but that word is the only descriptor for the story. Half-assed seems too complimentary. They indulge in some mind wrinkling time travel hijinks, otherwise there are no brains in this plot. And I mean plot in the loosest sense of the word. Reentrance to the titular hot tub time machine is manufactured, our reveal is predictable, and the half-hearted growth each character shares at the end is flimsy. Story serves as little more than framework for extended gags, but to reiterate, they’re pretty damn funny gags.
I don’t want to seem overly tepid. HTTM2 made me laugh, and as far as this genus of comedy goes, it had more chuckles per square inch than a Neighbors or 22 Jump Street. If you want to dig deeper, I miss the sincerity of the first picture. Where none of the lessons gleaned the first go round were unexpected, they resonated. Here, they feel tacked on. When the bittersweet genius of “Once in a Lifetime,” is replaced by the saccharine “Anything Could Happen,” as the soundtrack for our climactic emotional awakening, the depth is apparent.
So, yeah, what matters to you? If solid jokes delivered with an almost sketch comedy looseness is enough to wet your cinematic whistle, count yourself among HTTM2’s box office returns. If a complete story and a pinch of warmth won you over the first time, you won’t find any great satisfaction in part two. I’m of two minds about this picture. If you crave a misanthropic, lowbrow jaunt through space time, go see it in a packed house opening weekend. If you're after a good movie, well, you can look straight in my dead eyes and know HTTM2 isn't after such an accomplishment.