On DVD: Hot Tub Time Machine

As strange as the title “Hot Tub Time Machine” might seem, it oddly fits this movie. You can only expect so much from a flick that has two nouns in the title that are as seemingly opposite as “hot tub” and “time machine.” It’s the kind of title that says “I’m not going to make sense, but who doesn’t love hot tubs or time machines?” It’s a silly, mindless film that revels in time travel jokes and an assortment of gags related to the discrepancy between being middle-aged now and being a 20-something in the ’80s. It’s the kind of pure sugar fun you need to be in the mood for.

Sadly, I hold my time travel movies to a higher standard. In fact, Crispin Glover’s appearance in this film as one of the more amusing peripheral characters who is part of an effective through-line gag was like having a constant reminder of better time travel movies even if it intended just to be a throw back for ’80s nostalgists who love “Back to the Future.” The plot moves along so haphazardly that it becomes abundantly clear “Hot Tub” wants nothing more than to exploit the idea of time travel. As far as what going back in time is supposed to teach the characters, there’s nothing new here.

The film starts with snapshots of four men, three middle aged and the fourth is one of their nephews. Nick (Craig Robinson) is on his wife’s leash, Adam’s (John Cusack) girlfriend just left him, Jacob (Clark Duke) is Adam’s 20-year-old nephew who confines himself to the basement and Lou (Rob Corddry) is a jerk who just tried to off himself, which brings his buddies Adam and Nick to his aid. Together, they decide they need a getaway to their favorite old ski resort, Kodiak Valley.

Other than generic personality portraits (Adam’s the good guy, Nick’s the big baby, Lou’s the vehicle for dirty comedy, Jacob for dead-pan comedy), we see nothing else from these guys before they randomly find themselves in 1986. Immediately they decide they have to do exactly what they did when they were at the resort 24 years ago unless they want to drastically change their future.

The rest of the film consists of insult exchanges, physical gags, time jokes, pop culture references and a few surprise nuggets we have to wait for, such as who Clark’s father is. Most of it isn’t funny, but the fact that the whole film is somewhat of a back-handed tribute to the ’80s keeps things amusing. You can’t laugh with this film, but cleverly the writers convince you that the joke is on the ’80s, so you laugh at that rather than the jumbled nonsense that is the plot. Rather than try and make sense with regards to explaining the time travel, there’s Chevy Chase as the enigmatic hot tub repair guy that randomly appears and disappears throughout. He’s supposed to be a joke confirming that writers Josh Heald, John Morris and Sean Anders are aware of their ridiculous script, but it’s not funny enough to make up the difference.

Some of the dialogue is pretty funny. It best suits Duke, who despite being the black sheep of the film, gets a lot of the laughs because his character exposes the lunacy of the others with dead-on dry delivery. Corddry works perfectly despite not being likable, Robinson does’t stretch himself compared to previous roles and Cusack — let’s all admit he was in the film because he was an ’80s icon. Some of the scenes in “Hot Tub” are like straight from “Better Off Dead.”

Like the ’80s, “Hot Tub” was a good time, but in the grand scheme of things, just not very good and not worth doing again.

2/5 Stars

Hot Tub Time Machine
Directed by Steve Pink
Written by Josh Heald, Sean Anders, John Morris
Starring: John Cusack, Craig Robinson, Rob Corddry, Clark Duke


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