1. Life & Culture

Movies opening Feb. 20

Hot Tub Time Machine 2: Craig Robinson, from left, is Nick, Clark Duke is Jacob, Rob Corddry is Lou, and Adam Scott is Adam Jr. 
Hot Tub Time Machine 2: Craig Robinson, from left, is Nick, Clark Duke is Jacob, Rob Corddry is Lou, and Adam Scott is Adam Jr. 
Published Feb. 17, 2015

Give John Cusack credit for putting his art before money and skipping Hot Tub Time Machine 2 (R). Of course, if Cusack was that concerned about his art he wouldn't have starred in the first one.

Actually, his replacement is funnier (if only by default). Adam Scott, star of Parks and Recreation and vodka commercials, steps in as the most sensible member of four dudes gone wild. After the original took them back to 1986 in the titular mode of time travel, this one takes them back to the future. Part 2, that is, when Biff used the DeLorean to rig a fortune for himself.

Lou (Rob Corddry) uses foresight-hindsight to take credit for inventing the Internet. Nick (Craig Robinson) is a music sensation, recording hits that aren't his before the rightful owners do. Jacob (Clark Duke) is doing whatever fourth bananas do in raunchy comedies. When Lou becomes an assassination target, the others use time travel to find his assailant.

Hot Tub Time Machine 2 wasn't screened in time for Weekend, which is ironic, if you think about it.

Kevin Costner was just kidding a couple of weeks ago with Black or White.

McFarland USA (PG) is the race relations movie inspired by a true story that Costner really wants everyone to see and take seriously. Honest. The earlier movie was just to make this one look better. Smart thinking, huh?

This time, race has a dual meaning. First with the Latino high school students whipped into social and athletic shape by Costner's white savior, and the cross country championship they'll pull together to win. Yes, McFarland USA completes the actor's movie pentathlon: baseball, football, golf, cycling and now running.

The movie comes from Disney, so the results are a foregone conclusion: Lots of eager young performers, many of whom will never be noticed again, and a faded star seeking one last trip to the show.

McFarland USA wasn't screened by a Times critic.

Mae Whitman of TV's Parenthood isn't my idea of a "designated ugly fat friend" but that's who she's playing in The DUFF (PG-13), which says more about Hollywood's notion of beauty than its casting practices.

Whitman plays Bianca, a high school senior happy to be included in the princess clique until hunky friend Wesley (Robbie Amell) explains why. She's the DUFF for a trio of mean girls, led by Madison (Bella Thorne), a decoy to make them more approachable to hot guys, and a buffer to keep away the drips. Bianca decides to turn the tables, upending the teenage social order. Of course that will lead to a makeover and closer attention from Wesley, as the previews reveal.

The DUFF wasn't screened by a Times critic.

Steve Persall, Times movie critic


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