(Long Island, N.Y.) Ah, the 1980’s. An era of big hair, greed, neon, and non-stop partying. It was also a time that delivered film audiences some of the most memorable comedies ever, so you knew it was only a matter of time before Hollywood found a way to cash in on
all that nostalgia. Enter “Hot Tub Time Machine,” a hilarious parody of the 80’s that uses the simplest of plot devices to transport four hapless
modern-day men back to the decade where Don Johnson and Michael J. Fox ruled: a hot tub time machine.
Seriously, it’s a hot tub that’s also a time machine when you pour Russian energy drinks on it! I know it makes no sense, and the filmmakers also make no attempt whatsoever to explain why a innocent-looking hot tub would hurl its occupants through the time-space continuum. However, keeping the ins and outs of the whats and the whys on the down low (did that make sense? I think it did) allows Hot Tub Time Machine to get right to business entertaining us without slowing down to explain useless techno babble. Onward.
Hot Tub Time Machine is basically Back To The Future with a Hot Tub instead of a DeLorean. It deals with three unhappy middle-aged men who all had potential failed to live up to: Adam (John Cusack), who’s very unlucky-in-love; Lou (Rob Corddry), a drunken loser; and Nick (Craig Robinson), an emasculated dog groomer who blew his big shot in the music biz.
After a despondent Lou’s failed suicide attempt, the guys try and cheer him up by taking a trip to the fun ski resort town which also served as a major turning point of their collective youth. With Adam’s geeky nephew Jacob (Clark Duke) tagging along, the guys are horrified to discover that the once-bustling resort is now run-down and practically deserted. Trying to make the best of a bad situation, they end up getting loaded and pass out in the outdoor hot tub. Oh, and then they wake up in the year 1986, still looking old to each but like their young 1986 selves to everyone else…isn’t that odd? By the way, Jacob still looks normal, as he hasn’t been born yet. Well, normal, except for the fact that he’s starts becoming randomly transparent (ala Marty McFly) due to changes in the past possibly affecting the chances of his future birth. Again, just like Back To The Future!
So, the gang goes about trying to figure out what the heck’s going on, while vowing not to change anything that could alter the future. Of course, this line of thinking quickly goes out the window and soon the guys are engaging in all sorts of tomfoolery in an attempt to right the wrongs of their misspent youth. Meanwhile, they receive visits from a mysterious hot tub repairman (Chevy Chase!) who keeps dropping vague hints about what they should and should not be doing while he’s fixing their broken tub. But even if Chevy CAN fix the hot tub, will our heroes’ lives be better or worse when they return to 2010? Time travel movies can be funny like that.
Let’s get this out of the way- Hot Tub Time Machine is pretty darn amusing. Craig Robinson really steals the show…his delivery, mannerisms, and overall attitude make him one of the funniest guys in film today. There’s a scene where he’s forced to cheat on his wife (technically; in 1986, he’s not actually married yet) to preserve future events, and he’s weeping and calling the girl his wife’s name the entire time. Priceless. Rob Corddry as the party hound Lou was a highlight as well, playing the usual “gross” character that you always see in this sort of movie. But on the other end of the spectrum was John Cusack, whose attempts to hold up his end of the raunchy humor came across as very forced. I’m not saying that he’s in any way bad- he’s just clearly a little awkward when it comes to this type of material. Clark Duke is
solid and gets his share of the laughs; his many clashes with Lou are some of the best scenes in the movie.
Also, as a film that both parodies and pays homage to the 80’s, we have cameos from a few of its well-known stars. Already mentioned was Chevy Chase, but we also have wacko Crispin Hellion Glover playing a one-armed bellhop and William Zabka (sweep the leg, Johnny!) as a gun-wielding bar patron. Alas, this (very) small handful of guest-stars worked out so well that I found myself disappointed that the film didn’t have more of them. Imagine the Anthony Michael Hall, Robert Downey Jr., and Molly Ringwald showing up in various bit parts…the possibilities were endless.
Speaking of paying homage to the 80’s, it’s actually less of a factor in Hot Tub Time Machine then you’d think. Once the required jokes about Michael Jackson, cassette players, Jheri Curls, Miami Vice and gaudy pastels are used up, the time period doesn’t actually come into play that much. Likewise, gags involving the whole time travel aspect are pretty much left alone as well, at least until the end. This is just a movie that drops its characters into the past and lets them do their thing without constantly shoving extremely dated pop-culture references down your throat like Adam Sandler’s The Wedding Singer did. Thankfully.
There are things I COULD complain about regarding Hot Tub Time Machine… John Cusack acquires a hot-and-heavy love interest in record time (even when taking into consideration how quickly typical celluloid relationships pan out), many additional plot elements are *ahem* “borrowed” from Back To The Future, and there’s the typical sappy interlude near the end of the flick where the characters bicker about how they let each other down when they needed each other the most, blah, blah, blah. But the film is otherwise so good-natured and down-right funny that you don’t really care about its little imperfections; unless you suffer from OCD, you’ll just find yourself being entertained.
So, Hot Tub Time Machine is one of the best comedies to be churned out by Hollywood in quite some time. Highly recommended.