A film review by Craig J. Koban March 31, 2010
HOT TUB TIME MACHINE
2010, R, 98 mins.
2010, R, 98 mins.
Adam: John Cusack / Lou: Rob Corddry / Nick: Craig
Robinson / Jacob: Clark Duke / Bellboy: Crispin Glover / Alice:
Lizzy Caplan / Repairman: Chevy Chase
What in the world could my review of this film tell you that its hilariously obvious title has not already?
HOT TUB TIME MACHINE (the most idiotically succinct movie title since SNAKES ON A PLANE) involves – SPOILER WARNING!! – a hot tub that happens to be a time machine.
Uh…that’s the just of it.
Now, it would
be easy to simply write the film off because of the sheer lunacy of the
title alone, but what HOT TUB TIME MACHINE (geez…I love that title!!)
does resoundingly well is that it not only lives up to its oddball name, but it
also supersedes it by taking a one joke premise and stretching it out to
go-for-broke, unrelentingly crass, laughs-a-plenty, screwball farce.
The film is silly beyond recognition, but the makers and performers
harness the unbridled silliness and never look back.
There just reaches a point early on where I just lost myself to the
comic madness on display here; it gets infectious really fast.
the way, this is not a B-grade production.
John Cusack not only stars, but produces here, and the supporting
cast (Craig Robinson, Rob Corddry, and newcomer Clark Duke are brilliant
funnymen) and the director is Steve Pink, a long-time buddy of Cusack’s
that just happened to pen the script to one of his best films of the last
decade in HIGH FIDELITY. Part
of the limitless enjoyment of HOT TUB TIME MACHINE is that the performers
do not place themselves on a high pedestal above the outlandish material.
They all know, in some form or another, that this is all played for dumb
and wondrously unhinged fun, and the way they all leap into headfirst into
the sexual and scatological absurdity of the story
TUB TIME MACHINE is a very odd mixture: think BACK
TO THE FUTURE meets HOT DOG: THE MOVIE meets AMERICAN PIE…and it
also may be (as one critic wisely pointed out) the very first teen sex
comedy starring actors well into adulthood.
The adults in question are introduced in the film’s intro in
2010: they are all hapless schmucks in some form or another.
Adam (John Cusack) is a lowly insurance salesman whose wife has
just left him and took most of his prized possessions (including his
plasma TV…nooooo!!!). Living with him is his go-nowhere and seriously dweeby
20-year-old nephew named Jacob (played by a very funny Clark
Duke). Jacob lives in the
basement 24/7 and spends all his time on the computer.
Then we meet Nick (Craig Robinson), a man that was once an aspiring
that is now working at a pet center and is literally covered in doggie do
on a daily basis. Lastly, we
meet the perpetually hyperactive, frequently intoxicated, but introverted
and depressed Lou (Rob Corddry) who knocks himself unconscious in his garage
when he cranks up his favorite tune on the car radio and is so drunk and
oblivious that he fails to realize that his garage is filling up with
buddies think that Lou has committed suicide, so they plan an
intervention: They will all head to their favorite ski lodge as teenagers
to reclaim some of their lost youth.
When they arrive at the town they are saddened by how depressingly
run down it has now become. The
boys then decide to drown their sorrows in booze while taking a skinny dip
in their room’s hot tub, but as the partying
gets out of control something very strange happens: it seems like the machine is
actually a black hole portal into the past – 1986 to be precise.
How do the guys find this out? Well, it might have a lot to do with
the sudden infusion of 1980’s pop culture all around them, like big
hair, acid wash jeans and tie-dyed spandex fashions, cell phones the size
of footballs, ALF, KID N’ PLAY, and Ronald Reagan playing on the TV, but
the biggest clue is when Nick asks a stranger what color Michael Jackson
is, which proves to be the icing on the cake.
the boys are in 1986, but something else is very peculiar: When they all
look in the mirror their respective reflections are themselves, but 24
years younger, all except for young Jacob, whose reflection is his own
20-year old self. The
group then realizes that they are here to ensure that they live out their
lives just as it occurred in the past, seeing as they do not want to mess
up the space-time continuum, which
is especially important to Jacob. Part of the joviality of the film is how
the group uses their understanding of past time travel films to assist
them, and Jacob knows that, for example, he cannot interfere with his
mother (whom he does bump into and turns out to be a real floozy) because
it could affect him being born. Yet, the more they all try to follow their past destinies,
the more Adam, Nick, and Lou decide that perhaps things would be better if
they…changed a few things.
a 1980’s travelogue picture, HOT TUB TIME MACHINE is a giddy delight,
and those that have either lived through the decade (like me) and for
viewers that did not, there is much to laugh at and with (often, the film
wisely asserts that the decade had a lot trends that were best left in the
past). The film is awash in nostalgic film references, everything from 21 JUMP
STREET to RED DAWN to THE KARATE KID
(even that film's resident bad guy, William Zabka, makes a cameo as a lecherous
goon) are shown to more social observations like consequence-free sex,
free-wheeling drug use, and the lamentably aged lyrics of Poison.
It’s really easy to be swept away in the film’s culture quantum
that, HOT TUB TIME MACHINE is actually more clever with its premise than I
expected: much of the humor comes from how the men from the 21st Century
adjust to their womanly pursuits in the 1980’s. One funny moment occurs when Jacob tries to woe a young party
girl by asking for her email or cell phone number, which leaves her
incredulous (she does not know what emails or cell phones are, so she just asks him to look out for her to find her, which
seems like too much work for him). Then
there is an inspired moment when Nick has sex with a buxom babe in a hot
tub, but he cries throughout it. Why?
He feels that he is cheating on his wife in the future, but as his
friends rightfully tell
him, he’s not because he has not technically met his wife yet (she’s
only nine in 1986). This
leads to the film’s most knee-slapping scene where Nick – after he
realizes that his future wife has cheated on him – calls her
grade-school self in 1986 and rips into her with a stream of hurtful
group does try to fund ways to better themselves for the future, but while
still allowing for young Jacob to be born (which proves to be tricky).
Nick decides to redeem his past musical self with a rousing cover
of “Jessie’s Girl” followed by “Let’s Get It Started,” which
was definitely not on the charts in 1986. Adam, on the other hand, deals with his past girlfriend
dumping him (in the original history, he's the dumper), but is then
befriended by a cute woman (played by the very cute Lizzy Caplan) who may
be the new future one he’s looking for.
Lou, on the other hand, is so unscrupulously unhinged and frantic
that he wants to change…well…just about everything, like inventing a
Google-like search engine (which later leads to a great sight gag), Girls
Gone Wild, and finding a way to stop Miley Cyrus from ever happening.
Lou is so crackers that he also accidentally makes a botched wager
on a football game that he thinks he knows the outcome, but then loses, with a
penalty that is…shall we say…quite disturbing to both him and Nick.
performers, again, are like spirited guides through the film’s f-bomb
riddled and dirty minded craziness (the film is very appropriately rated
R and is uncompromisingly vulgar and lewd, but it never apologizes for
it): Cusack plays the
straight man of the group with a dependable edge, and I really liked the
equally sly Clarke Duke, who tries to be the voice of reason and sanity in
an unreasonable and insane predicament.
Two comic standouts abound here, and the first would be Craig
Robinson, who in my mind is one of the finest comic actors at bridging the
gap between verbal coarseness and childlike vulnerability and naiveté.
The second would be Rob Corddry, who provides the breakout comic
performance of the young year with his turn as the motor mouthed,
sex-hungry, and beer guzzling Lou. It’s
one of those gloriously madcap, goofball performances that deserve mention
along some of the earlier comic performances of a Robin Williams or a
Michael Keaton. Watching him
go berserk at the drop of a hat is deviously inspired.
Two other notable 80’s icons also appear, like Chevy Chase as a mystical repairman that may have a solution for the boys to get back home to 2010 and Crispin Glover (BACK TO THE FUTURE alumni) that plays an one-armed bell hop in 2010 that the men meet up with in 1986, but with both arms intact (the film’s best recurring gag is to see just how his accident occurs, which creates ample comic suspense). Ultimately, HOT TUB TIME MACHINE relishes in its flashback eccentricities and it does so with an appetite for all-out crude ribaldry (even when it succumbs to three unnecessary sight gags involving dog excrement, projectile vomit, and urine). So, how do I defend a near four-star rating for this film? It's simple: If you are a willing to submit to HOT TUB TIME MACHINE’s disorderly preposterousness and endearing tribute to Cold War-era cinematic raunch, then prepare to laugh...a lot. This Twitter-age confrontation with the Atari-age is a guilty pleasure through and through.