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‘Hot Tub’ feels just right

Published: April 9, 2010
Section: Arts, Etc.


Based on the title “Hot Tub Time Machine” alone, you can instantly recognize you’re about to witness a movie that doesn’t exactly take itself seriously and is more than willing to immerse itself in all the kitsch its premise entails. Thankfully, this intentional silliness does not end with the film’s opening credits. Instead of simply resting on the laurels of its admittedly hilarious name, “Hot Tub Time Machine” actually provides genuine entertainment.

Adam (John Cusack) is in the midst of a fierce divorce when his one-time friend Lou (Rob Corddry) almost kills himself in a drunken stupor. After consulting with their old mutual friend Nick (Craig Robinson), whose life is also in disarray, Adam decides to take them to the ski resort where they used to hang out as teenagers; Adam’s slacker nephew Jacob (Clarke Duke) also accompanies them rather unwillingly. Upon arriving at the resort, however, they find the place virtually abandoned and decide to drink away their sorrows in the resort’s hot tub. To their chagrin, this is no ordinary hot tub—when it comes into contact with the contents of an illegal Russian energy drink, it transports them back to 1986. They initially endeavor to change nothing in an effort to preserve their present, but they quickly become more and more tempted to alter their depressing present by changing the past.

There is nothing about “Hot Tub Time Machine” that is exactly new. The sex jokes and the bromantic antics at its center have been milked repeatedly by other comedies during the last few years. Yet it’s hard to argue that the film doesn’t bring its own comic sensibilities to the table. Yes, some of this is old territory, but it does, at least, throw in a time traveling hot tub for good measure. The panache and verve with which the film tells its story makes it extremely fun to watch, and isn’t that, after all, the highest compliment you can pay to this kind of movie?

In a way, “Hot Tub Time Machine” does more than simply lampoon ’80s teen-sex comedies—it essentially becomes one. It melds the traditional tropes of the old-fashioned sex comedy with the newer stylings of the Apatow brand of humor that has become pervasive in recent years. The raunchy humor that’s persistent throughout the film is certainly the most obvious example of this.

Because of the time traveling aspect, of course, the film is very self-conscious about ’80s culture—the parachute pants, the archaic cell phones, the jheri curls. While this focus on how wacky and tacky ’80s culture was is emphasized repeatedly after the group first time travels, the film doesn’t overly stress it.

The film would easily flounder without a strong cast, as charismatic actors with a good group dynamic are certainly necessary to sell many of the jokes. Luckily, this cast has chemistry in spades. Cusack, Corddry, Robinson and Duke all bounce off of each other well. Corddry is easily the most outrageous of the bunch. His character is extremely abrasive and seemingly suffers both from an inflated ego and low self-esteem. Though he frequently risks becoming too over-the-top, he never becomes overly annoying. The film also features a cameo by Chevy Chase and somehow manages to completely waste his talents. He plays a mysterious hot tub repairman who helps the four men, appearing and disappearing at random. The character serves little purpose, and the jokes surrounding the character—most of which revolve around his apparent inability to give them a straight answer—become tiresome quickly. If you’re looking for something enlightening, then look elsewhere. However, if you’re looking for a few easy laughs, then “Hot Tub Time Machine” is definitely a movie to consider, though it may be better to rent the film than to see it in theaters.

Grade: B/B-