Hot Tub Time Machine:
Directed by Steve Pink
Released in 2010
Simplicity is underrated. Films with titles like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or Precious: Based On The Novel Push By Sapphire can be clumsy and lead to confusion. Confusion leads to thought, and who wants to think when seeing a movie? Thankfully, the film with the best name in years, Hot Tub Time Machine, is here and allows you to turn off your brain for about 100 minutes and revel in the mindless hilarity.
The story is, as one would think, fairly self-explanatory. Four dudes (John Cusack, Craig Robinson, Rob Corddry and a newcomer, Clark Duke) are experiencing a nadir in their once-rich lives. John Cusack is Adam, whose girlfriend just dumped him, Craig Robinson is Nick, a hopeful musician who settled down too quickly, Clark Duke is Adam's geeky nephew, and Rob Corddry is the reckless alcoholic, Lou, who shows a surprising disregard for his own, as well as his friend's, well-being. They decide to take a weekend off at a ski resort and have a crazy party in a mystical hot tub, which, to the audience's complete surprise, transports them through time. The new year is 1986, and the guys, with the exception of Clark, who was not born yet, realize that they have to replicate the exact events they did over 20 years ago in order for the "space time continuum" to remain intact and....actually, nevermind, this information is not necessary. Too much thought. Anyway, they first try to adhere to the past but realize that doing so took them to their miserable current existence, so they decide to change things up as a result. The writers do not even attempt to logically explain the science behind the time travel and it is better off because of this. Quantum physics is not what one should expect when going to see a movie called Hot Tub Time Machine.
To put it in layman's terms, this movie is funny. The opening has a eclectic Hangover vibe before it eventually develops as a crude cross between Superbad and Back To The Future. Speaking of that time travel classic, Crispin Glover (the dad from Back To The Future) makes a welcome appearance as the hotel butler Phil. In the present day he is missing an arm, leaving him a vile, offensive brute, but mysteriously has the appendage in the past. The group witnesses Phil run into several close encounters that could result in an avulsion. Lou's disappointed reaction when Phil turns out to be safe is one of the best parts of the whole movie. The laughs come quickly and rank in the upper echelons of recent R-rated comedy fare.
The cast shows a dynamic comedic range that may provoke thoughts of The Hangover's leading men. Cusack is the straight man, Robinson is the troubled married man, Duke is the nerdy, spineless geek, and Corddry is the outrageous, mentally-troubled buffoon. The combination works wonders, thankfully, as they all have a share of hilarious scenes. John Cusack is, and has always been, a terrific actor and he seems to be overqualified for this role. There are scenes when he convincingly emotes the deep melancholy of his character, and he may follow with a winning comic line delivered with sharp cadence. This role certainly also seeks to remind the audience of Cusack's role of teenage icon in the 80s with such films as Say Anything and Better Off Dead. It succeeds.
The rest of the cast is equally bright. Craig Robinson, the often-harassed Darryl from The Office, shines as a noble yet weak-willed married man who must cheat on his current wife with a girl in the past. Technically, that is not cheating is it? Chevy Chase literally pops out of nowhere for a few scenes as the prophetic "Repair Man" who seems to be the Doc Brown to the group's Marty McFly. Chase, whose physical appearance and movements have made him as much of an icon as his extraordinary comedic timing, does not have many memorable lines but his mere presence only helps the film in the end. Crispin Glover is a pleasure to behold as well, and, with his other recent film Alice In Wonderland raking in hundreds of millions at the box office, it is great to see such an interesting and, daresay it, forgotten actor back in the spotlight. That leaves us with the star of the show, Rob Corddry. I have been a huge fan of Rob since he started on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, so it is great to see him get a big role that shows the world his superb talent. "Lou" is eccentric throughout, whether it be resorting to hiring hookers upon stepping into the room or shooting projectile vomit at peaceful squirrels. Lou also seems to be the one character to take advantage of their situation and current knowledge by placing inordinate bets on obscure events or trying to impress others with his forebodings of the future. At one point he drunkenly shouts "John Lennon will get shot" before realizing that has already happened.
Considering it takes place in the 1980s, there are countless references to that decade shown throughout. The way these clues stack up to the initial revelation of a time switch is rather ingenious, but, for the rest of the film, some of these nostalgiac tidbits seem tacked on. As Adam walks into a room to meet his smokin' girlfriend in a tight, furry jumpsuit (and it is worth mentioning that, like any R comedy nowadays, there are handfuls of hot women, clothed and topless, here), David Bowie's "Modern Love" plays (an interesting song choice considering the title) and a Duran Duran Rio poster is seen briefly afterwards. This scattershot piling of references actually makes for a superb soundtrack, led by Motley Crue's "Home Sweet Home", but does end up feeling disorganized. This is barely a complaint, however, as anyone who lived through the 80s or appreciates the decade will notice the liberal allusions placed within.
In conclusion, Hot Tub Time Machine is not original or groundbreaking in any way besides in that it embraces its inherent simplicity. The scientific plausibility of the events that occur is briskly ignored, as it should be. The title itself eschews metaphors or romantic imagery and gets straight down to business. What is here is a hilarious, raunchy time warp with an excellent cast of characters. The script is strong for the most part, though The Hangover and Anchorman can lay claim to more "classic" nonsensical quotes. Do not expect the rapid-fire, witty screenplay a la In The Loop either. Nonetheless, feel free to join the dudes in the glowing hot tub. The time will be eventful and you'll ache from laughing. Just do not drink the water. There's no way it can be good for your health.
3.5 Stars Out of 5