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Thursday, March 25, 2010

"Hot Tub Time Machine" is a lot more fun than it has any right to be.

Hot Tub Time Machine
review by Brent Sweeting

3 out of 4 stars

"Hot Tub Time Machine" never pretends to be anything other than what it is, a fun romp through the '80s that is heavy on both current and past pop culture jokes and crude humor. No one ever actually looks directly into the camera and says, "We are sending these guys back through time in a hot tub. We know its ridiculous. Deal with it," but they come close. The entire tongue in cheek feel and randomness of the movie makes it obvious that no thought should be given to the plot of this movie. It is this acknowledgment of the ridiculousness of the story that
keeps such an implausible idea from being insulting, and by the end of the film I actually found myself caring about what happened to the three main characters.

Directed by Steve Pink (who previously wrote the screenplays for "High Fidelity" and "Grosse Pointe Blank"), "Hot Tub Time Machine" is a story about three lovable losers that have all grown dissatisfied with how their lives have turned out. A freak accident sends them back in time, and along the way they learn a bit about the meaning of friendship.  John Cusack is Adam, who has recently gone through a breakup and is still wondering about what might have happened with "the one that got away" back in 1986. Craig Robinson (TV's "The Office) is Nick. He works at a dog boutique and worries his wife is having an affair. Rob Corddry("Semi-Pro" and "Blades of Glory") is Lou who has never gotten his life together. He is that friend who never grows up that everyone has from their past. Adam and Nick have distanced themselves from Lou as they have grown up and moved on with their lives. But when Lou ends up in the hospital from a drunken mistake that is misinterpreted as a suicide attempt, the two old friends agree to try to cheer him up with a trip back to the ski resort town they partied at in their younger glory days. They bring Adam's nephew Jacob (Clark Duke of "Sex Drive") who never leaves his basement or his internet connection, along for the ride and the four head out. Shortly after arrival the four ingest nearly every drug known to man while hot-tubbing and the party begins. During the bacchanalian revelry that ensues, an energy drink with a mysterious ingredient spills in the electrical system of the tub causing it to send them back in time. Once they get back in time, the '80s jokes, cameos, and references come out of the woodwork. Chevy Chase is terribly underused as the hot tub repairman, but look for William Zabka (Johnny the bad boy from the original "The Karate Kid") as Rick, who Lou tries to engage in a sucker bet based on Lou's knowledge of the future. "Hot Tub Time Machine" addresses every time travel cliché you can imagine, and as in the previous example, it's usually done in a clever and funny way.

Channeling some of the randomness of earlier Cusack film "Better Off Dead", "Hot Tub Time Machine" is a lot more fun than it has any right to be. The story feels hastily thrown together, and some of the humor gets so crude that it borderlines on feeling cheap. An example of this is a dog poop splattering joke in the first 5 minutes of the film. What makes the film work in spite of everything it has going against it is the relationship between Cusack, Robinson, and Corddry's characters. The movie is funny too. It's not as funny as other recent crude humor comedies like "The Hangover" or "The 40 Year Old Virgin" but there are still a lot of laughs, especially if you can watch it with a group of friends. Some of the funniest parts in the movie involve a running gag with Crispin Glover (Back to the Future) playing a bellhop missing an arm. Once they get back in the past, the real fun comes in watching Lou's excitement at trying to witness the exact moment the arm is severed. The fact that everyone takes for granted that his accident must have happened on the exact day the guys arrive at in the past, is a great example of how illogical the writing is. But if you can look past this, "Hot Tub Time Machine" is at least an entertaining couple of hours. If you grew up in the '80s it is at best a great trip through memory lane.

1 comment:

  1. I actually loved this movie, and for much of the reasons you state in the review. I saw it with a group of friends, I grew up in the 80's and picked up on much of the subtle throwbacks to the decade, and for some strange reason found myself really hoping for these guys' lives to be changed for the better. I thought your review was right on the money, and while this will not go down as even a cult classic like the Hangover might, it is one that can be enjoyed in the right company many times over!