By now you’ve probably heard of this flick or caught one of the many commercials hammering home the absurdity of the title. Hot Tub Time Machine. It just sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? It brings to mind many different routes for the film to go down, most of which probably would have required John Travolta being hired. What you think the film is, or is about, may not be correct. Alright, you do know what the film is about. Some dudes in a hot tub travel back in time. But the kind of film you’re expecting may be entirely different.
For starters, this flick is Rated-R and, for the most part, runs with it. There are no jokes about old age or funny faces or things like that. Instead, we get things pulled out of dog asses, semen jokes, blowjob references, child abuse, and even a pair of boobies. Now, I’m a sucker for child abuse, so this film immediately had one thing going in it’s favor.
Just in case you need a little bit more info on the plot, I’ll give it to you. Three friends that have grown apart come back together to help one of their friends. To renew the spark of life, they head up to their old favorite hang-out in the mountains for a weekend of drinking and partying. Lou (Rob Corddry) is abrasive and dabbling in self hate, Adam (Cusack) hates what his life has become after (and before) his divorce, Nick (Robinson) is stuck in a shitty job with a cheating spouse, and along for the ride is the basement dwelling nerd that is Nick’s nephew, Jacob (Duke). Toss the boys into the hot tub, load them up with alcohol, a mysterious energy drink, and a squirrel, and before you know the guys are transported back to the 1980s during Winterfest, a rock and roll party at a ski resort. From there, they either have to do everything exactly the same or choose to change the future.
Hot Tub Time Machine never aims to reinvent the wheel, they just aim to make you laugh. Personally after the first 15 minutes, I was about ready to clock out. The jokes seemed a bit forced and were trying a bit hard. Once the magic happens and the boys end up back in 1986, we start getting some laughs. The film is full of energy and highly quotable. I was laughing out loud in the theater, which is something my sourpuss face is not always apt to do. The comedic gold comes predominantly from Rob Corddry and Craig Robinson, both of whom are firing on all cylinders. A lot of my favorite jokes were at the expense of Jacob (Clark Duke) who was obsessively pounded on and insulted by Lou, though even his own Uncle layered on the insults.
Normally I wouldn’t want to spoil a good joke, but since nearly all of the trailers and TV spots show it, Nick’s phone call to his 9 year old future wife is fantastic verbal abuse that will have you rolling. Crispin Glover is also in the flick and has the longest running joke of all and it actually pays off pretty well.
Still on the positive side of things, there are a ton of fun 80s references and music (one of my favorite decades) and a ton of flawed characters. None of the guys is really a good guy, as illustrated by their rampant, but fun, drug and alcohol abuse, which is played successfully for laughs.
Now that I’ve finished telling you how great it is, let me lay down what doesn’t work. Most noticeably to me is Chevy Chase, a great and beloved comedic actor, who spends like 4 minutes on screen. He’s obviously wasted and a few opportunities for great jokes revolving around him are absent. Secondly, on a story level, HTTM is a movie about Lou. He is the most complex character with the most issues and the most on the line. The film, however, focuses mostly on Adam, Cusack’s character. Perhaps because he’s the bigger name, but no matter the reason it’s wrong – Corddry is the movie’s heart and soul, yet we spend too much time away from him.
Definitely not perfect, but a a fun R-Rated comedy brimming with energy, Hot Tub Time Machine will make you laugh and possibly pee a little. I had a fun time with it and think most people will too. It’s not The Hangover or Role Models, but it’s own film with its own rules. It could have been golden with a few changes, but silver ain’t bad either.
The Up Side: Craig Robinson and Rob Corddry are absolute dynamite.
The Down Side: Chevy Chase is wasted, some story flaws.