© 2010 Ray Wong
With a silly but catchy title, Hot Tub Time Machine is made in the same vein as last year's gross-out comedy hit The Hangover. It is as if a bunch of guys (they have to be guys) got together in a locked room and came out with both movies at the same time.
Three high school best friends have drifted apart in recent years. Adam (John Cusack) is an insurance salesman who went through relationships like he did beer. Nick (Craig Robinson) is an aspiring musician working at a dead-end job as a dog groomer. And Lou (Rob Corddry) is the "asshole" of the group who is also an alcoholic. When Lou is hospitalized for a suspected attempted suicide, Adam and Nick, with Adam's nephew Jacob (Clark Duke), try to cheer him up by suggesting a weekend trip to their old favorite ski resort.
They check into the hot tub room they had over 20 years ago, except the hot tub is now broken and everything is rundown. Later that evening, the hot tub is fixed by a mysterious repair man (Chevy Chase). After a night of partying at the hot tub, the guys find themselves transported back to Winterfest 1986 when the resort is still thriving. They also find themselves back in their old teen bodies (Jacob as a "possible" existence since he wasn't born yet in 1986), and reliving the same events they did so many years ago.
The repair man warns them that they can't change anything or the results could be disastrous. Jacob believes if they don't reenact everything as before, he would never be born. However, Adam, Nick and Lou do not want to relive their miserable lives again -- they want to do something different, since they are now "older and wiser," even at the risk of upsetting the universe. They also need to find a way back to the present.
John Cusack (2012) has gone from dramatic indie roles back to big budget Hollywood paychecks. I don't blame him, but I wonder if he's sacrificing his used-to-be halfway respectable career? He's back to his best shticks, though, playing hopeless boy-man with an emotional handicap. He feels at ease in the role (unlike when he's playing "heroes"), especially with is fellow boy-men. Craig Robinson (Zach and Miri Make a Porno) plays the lovable bear and married man so well that I'm afraid he's going to be forever typecast. Rob Corddry (W) has a ball (quite literally) playing the obnoxious, loud, sexual, inconsiderate "asshole" of the group of friends. Clark Duke (Kick-Ass) doesn't have a lot to do playing the fourth banana and the voice of reasons -- basically, the youngest of the cast member is playing the parent.
Sebastian Stan (Rachel Getting Married) plays it stereotypical as the bullying jock. Lyndsy Fonseca (Kick-Ass) has a relatively small role as young Adam's sexy girlfriend. Crispin Glover (Alice in Wonderland) channels his George McFly as a hapless bellhop -- it's good to see him back in his game. Chevy Chase (Stay Cool) is rather wasted in a cameo as the repair man. Lizzy Caplan (Crossing Over) is lovely and fun as Adam's would-be love interest, although it's disconcerting that she looks exactly the same in 1986 and 2010. And Collette Wolfe (17 Again) is loopy as Adam's slutty sister and Jacob's mother.
Written by Josh Heald (Harald & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay), Sean Anders (She's Out of My League) and John Morris (She's Out of My League), the screenplay goes directly for the Hangover's audiences: basically teenage boys and those who like potty, smutty humor. And it works. Forget about logic: we're talking about a hot tub that is a time machine. Just chalk it up as some kind of divine intervention and move on, shall we? As a gross-out comedy, it works because it has everything in it: potty humor, sex, gay jokes, gratuitous nudity (both male and female), stupidity… all that jazz, some of which are cringe-worthy despite the fact that we've all been desensitized.
The writers go all out and leave nothing to the imagination. Subtlety really isn't a merit for a comedy like this, and the writers know that. Their plot is outrageous. Their dialogue is obnoxious. Their characters are morons (with hearts, of course). And it works. It's hilarious. It panders to the boys within us guys, and women who may enjoy such things (I presume, however, 90% of their target audiences are male).
Director Steve Pink (Accepted) infuses the film with great energy. There's almost an insanity throughout the movie, and the actors are encouraged to overact. The plot moves along in a breakneck pace, leaving us little room to ponder how preposterous it is. Pink also doesn't shy away from being gross, and trust me, there are plenty of grossness in this movie. But in context, it works beautifully. He's also done a good job recreating the 80s -- and it pains me to realize how ridiculous we looked and acted back then; although, of course, we didn't know it then.
Hot Tub Time Machine is infantile, gross, and hilarious. If you want something deep and insightful (other than the obligatory "you can choose your path" message), look somewhere else. But if you're looking for a laugh-out-loud, mindless, no hold bar sex comedy that takes your mind off your problems for 100 minutes, you've got it. Bring your own hot tub.
Stars: John Cusack, Clark Duke, Craig Robinson, Rob Corddry, Sebastian Stan, Lyndsy Fonseca, Crispin Glover, Chevy Chase, Lizzy Caplan, Collette Wolfe
Director: Steve Pink
Writers: Josh Heald, Sean Anders, John Morris
MPAA Rating: R for strong crude and sexual content, nudity, drug use and pervasive language
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Script – 7
Performance – 8
Direction – 8
Cinematography – 7
Editing – 7
Production – 7
Total – 7.3 out of 10