Reel Society

Reviews for the latest movies in theaters and on DVD.

Hot Tub Time Machine


Review by Mark David Campbell

The 1980’s were the decade of the teenage comedy.  John Cusack was in several of the better ones, including Better Off Dead and The Sure Thing, two of my all-time favorites.  So it was good to see Cusack, now well into his forties, slip back into the genre.  But it begs the question… how can you do a 1980’s teenage comedy thirty years later?

Well, the title of the movie says it all, a title so bold and ridiculous that it pretty much frees the entire film from any pretense of being anything else.  And it is a wild, hysterical ride.

Cusack plays Adam, an insurance salesman who regularly pals around with his best friends Nick (Craig Robinson) and Lou (Rob Corddry).  None of them are happy the way their lives turned out, to say the least… in fact, Lou has just survived an accident that may or may not have been a half-assed suicide attempt.  In a last-ditch effort to recapture their youth, they decide to return to the site of their teenage heydays:  a ski resort that, like the friends, has seen better days.

With Adam’s video game-obsessed nephew Jacob (Clark Duke) in tow, the quartet get roaringly drunk in a hot tub (which also turns out to be a… betcha can’t guess…), and wake up in 1986.  They still look like themselves, but when they gaze in a mirror, the three older men see themselves as teenagers.  (Jacob hasn’t been born yet, so his features don’t change, and we’ll later discover why.)

You can see that the guys desperately want to throw themselves back into their lives, to make them better the second time around, but they are also very aware of the fragility of time, and that their actions could easily make things worse.  And in the era of sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll, how impossibly hard would that be?

But this is a comedy, first and foremost, and Hot Tub Time Machine is hysterically funny.  I expected that Cusack would turn in the most memorable performance, and was pleasantly surprised by the job that Corddry did with Lou.  Lou is bitter, unhappy, depressed, pissed off as hell and an alcoholic to boot.  Few people could play this role with the precise comedic timing of a Swiss watch, but Corddry, a veteran of “The Daily Show”, hits all the right marks.  Also present are Crispin Glover as a chainsaw-wielding bellman (don’t ask) and an aging Chevy Chase as the kooky hot-tub-repair-guy, who obviously knows more about the group’s mysterious time travel than he lets on. 

Now, will Hot Tub Time Machine join the ranks of some of the best teenage sex comedies of all time?  Probably not.  But what it does do is provide a lot of nostalgia for guys of, eh, my age, who remember those films fondly while laughing out loud at the truly charming spectacle in front of me.

This film features a lot of profanity and some nudity, so it has justly earned its R rating.  But I’m truly glad the powers that be decided not to water it down to make it more user-friendly.  God knows, that hot tub was full enough.

3 ½ / 5 stars

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