"LIFE IS FUCKING WEIRD," declares Clark Duke's character, the bespectacled douche-dork Jacob, approximately a quarter of the way through Hot Tub Time Machine 2, and he's completely right: In what fucked-up reality does Hot Tub Time Machine, a film singularly distinguished by the idiotic (or "hilarious," depending on the orientation of your baseball cap) premise that its principal characters traveled back in time in a hot tub, actually warrant a sequel? Where do you go from there?
Into the future, naturally. Hot Tub Time Machine's most distinctive quality was its setting (a ski resort in 1986). HTTM2's universe is far less culturally passé—it's a believable, vaguely dystopian, not-too-distant future, defined by self-driving cars, phone implants, and a Jessica Williams-hosted The Daily Show. That said, it's a future none of us want to live in: One without John Cusack. One of the first film's biggest (if not only) assets, Cusack was the only certifiably "great" actor of this bunch; his character, the archetypically acerbic Adam Yates, was the sole source of humanity in an otherwise anemic narrative. This time around, Cusack has been replaced by the considerably less subtle Adam Scott, whose portrayal of milquetoast man-child Adam Yates Jr. constantly toes the delicate line between endearing and obnoxious.
When Hot Tub Time Machine 2 is funny, it's pretty funny—lummox Nick (Craig Robinson) is revealed to have made a career out of plagiarizing pop songs from the past three decades, and his recreation of Lisa Loeb's "Stay" video is one of the more legitimately amusing scenes from the film. But when the movie blows, it blows hard: In one scene, Jacob inexplicably attempts to explain the stupid "science" of the hot tub with Fisher-Price quantum mechanics, and the massively unsettling centerpiece toward the middle of the film is a scene in which Nick is forced to have sex with one of his friends on reality TV show Choozy Doozy. (The entire punchline is that the sex they're having is gay.)
All in all, Hot Tub Time Machine 2 is a pretty pitiable excuse for a sequel—though to be fair, the complete lack of expectation doesn't exactly make it "disappointing." Like its predecessor, it's just another shamelessly crass bro comedy, and one that—somewhat ironically—already feels pretty damn dated.