Movie Review: Hot Tub Time Machine (2010)
The steps to hot tub time travel are deceptively simple. Drive to an abandoned resort town, rent a room with a hot tub, get drunk enough to hop in, pour your weapons grade energy drink onto the circuits and get ready to wake up as a pimply, awkward teen. Hot Tub Time Machine derives much of its humor from the fact that its principle characters, Adam (John Cusack), Nick (Craig Robinson) and Lou (Rob Cordrey) know what’s coming, but they can’t do anything about it without risking the existence of Jacob (Clark Duke), who gets zapped back to a time roughly three days before his conception.
Of course, that’s the deal when it comes to time travel. Marty McFly went back in time with a stern warning to not touch a thing, lest history be irreparably altered, and here in this film, Jacob expresses fear that Hitler will be elected president should he do so much as kill a fly. For Adam, Nick and Jacob, however, this trip back in time presents them a unique opportunity to relive what should have been the greatest weekend of their lives.
While that sounds great, especially considering the loveless relationships, dead end jobs, and failed suicide attempts the three start the movie enduring, the nostalgia of high school quickly wears off when they realize that Winterfest wasn’t really that great for anybody involved. Adam is supposed to break up with his girlfriend and get stabbed in the eye. Nick is supposed to blow his big chance at music stardom. Lou is supposed to get beaten up by a bunch of lame Reaganites twice in the same night, the second time coming after his friends promise to back him up, only to bail. And Jacob’s got to come out of this still existing, right?
There are a lot of tangential laughs about the 80s, which we as a society have come to deem as the most laughable decade, but it doesn’t rely on gags involving hair metal, leg warmers, and Where’s the Beef? jokes. A lesser comedy, or a VH1 special, would have gathered it’s principle characters up for an unrelenting, two hour stream of jokes at the expense of the decade, like teen sex comedies that try to get a laugh not from the situation the characters find themselves in, but at the mere idea that one of its characters is still a virgin. The humor here comes from conflict. Conflict doesn’t come from the era, but the need to get back to where these guys belong.
I appreciated the lack of moralizing throughout the movie. Lou bounces back from his attempted suicide to resume his life an unrepentantly horny party animal, not giving a damn as to Jacob’s survival. When they come across the one-armed bellboy (Crispin Glover), they spend their spare time in the past hoping to witness how he lost it. A safe move would have been to have everybody learn from their past mistakes, but these guys are not well-adjusted adults leading happy lives. They’re man-children, some with more potential than others, and man-children thrust back to the craziest weekend of their lives aren’t going to go all soft and wistful.
So yeah, it’s funny. It’s the only adult-orientated comedy this year that I’ve laughed out loud at, and it holds up to repeat viewings. That’s just about all you can ask for from movies like this, which are so often flotsam and jetsam waiting to be washed from the shores of our theatres to the giant plastic bag island in the sea that is the discount $5 DVD bin.
Hot Tub Time Machine. Directed by Steve Pink. With John Cusack (Adam), Rob Corddry (Lou), Craig T. Robinson (Nick), Clark Duke (Jacob), Crispin Glover (Bellboy), Lizzy Caplan (Alice), and Chevy Chase (Repairman). Released March 26, 2010, by MGM.
Paul Arrand Rodgers
Paul Arrand Rodgers has this blog, and that's about it.