Film Review: HOT TUB TIME MACHINE

By at March 25, 2010 | 9:54 pm | Print

by Norm Schrager, Meet In the Lobby, posted 03.25.10
3.5 / 5 stars

Hot Tub Time Machine Movie PosterHot Tub Time Machine is a movie that takes place in 1986 — but it could actually be a movie from 1986. There’s the hard-partying lunatic, the rock-music wallpaper, the gratuitous sex-fantasy delusions, and the just-accept-it science (or ‘weird science’, if you will). This loose homage is the joy of Hot Tub, brought to you by a few 40ish guys who obviously remember having a few drinks during the 80s. Or don’t remember it.

It’s easy to dismiss the plot of Hot Tub and just get to the gags — jeez, the title alone demands it — but there’s something a little deeper here. The story’s basic twists and catalysts are similar to those in, say, Back to the Future; but back in 1985, a silly set of time-travel rules seemed a heck of a lot more ingenious. In 2010, they just feel immature. If not for the broad level of ridiculousness that director Steve Pink delivers, we’d be laughing at Hot Tub rather than with it. Hey, times change.

We’ll break it down anyway: Three dudes, desperate for a little fun, revisit the ski resort where they raged as younger men. The 40s have hit these fellas hard: Adam (John Cusack) is a bore, recently ditched by his girl, and dragging his dorky 20-year-old nephew (Clark Duke) along for the ride; Nick (Craig Robinson, Darryl in The Office) is a pet shop owner with a cheating wife; Lou (a ridiculously raging Rob Corddry) is an overly aggressive drunk.

When the quartet arrives, they find boarded-up storefronts (thank you, banking industry!), a comically decrepit hotel and a hot tub with a dead animal in it. After a pathetic round of drinks, said hot tub is mysteriously ready to go… enter men, enter drinks, enter more drinks, and exit into Winterfest 1986. There’s one problem: The guys were actually once at Winterfest 1986. And now they’re back as their younger selves (only in others’ eyes, of course).

John Cusack, Craig Robinson, Rob Corddry and Clark Duke in Hot Tub Time Machine

Now imagine every appropriate cliché, every predictable move and, poof, you shall have it. The script, co-authored by a trio of guys slightly younger than our heroes, refers to just about every piece of 80s iconography, references just about every iconic 80s movie.

The humor comes like a hurricane – sometimes it rocks you, other times it’s just loud – but director Pink, a writer on Cusack’s High Fidelity and Grosse Pointe Blank, doesn’t hit you over the head with satire. Just silliness, full of fun and energy. Instead of replicating scenes from past movies, Wayans Brothers-style, Hot Tub instead duplicates the goofy rhythm of that decade.

Name your 80s film, it’s all here. Better Off Dead. Red Dawn. Hot Dog: The Movie. We get just a taste of those movies and that era, with its bombastic male bravado and requisite boobies. If you’re over 35, you’ll have a whole different appreciation for Hot Tub than a kid will. Hey, two decades after his own teen period, the lovable Cusack is back in a bar doing luge shots — a little reluctantly, but doing them anyway.

Chevy Chase in Hot Tub Time MachineThe 1980s acting mainstays are here too: from Chevy Chase (left) as the annoyingly cryptic hot tub repairman to Crispin Glover as a bellhop who’s about to lose an arm, somehow, if the future is any indication. Nearly every gag, especially the ones featuring these guys, lives only for its own existence. Pink and the gang are smart enough to pull some jokes off the line without winking too much at the audience. It feels like just the right balance.

Even when Corddry plays wild-man Lou way over the top, he knows how to lean back and pull the audience in. Although I somehow longed to see Jeremy Piven in the role, Corddry actually gets us to sympathize with his wacko, in a movie full of useless, stupid, happy wackiness.

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  1. […] Also great (in order): Best Worst Movie, Winter’s Bone, Cyrus, Frozen, My Son My Son What Have Ye Done, Down Terrace, Cell 211, Hot Tub Time Machine […]

2 Comments


  1. Mary, 7 years ago Reply

    Any movie that can re-use the classic line “I want my two dollars” is a winner in my book. I agree… 3.5/5


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