Hot Tub Time Machine
Rated R/100 min.
After months of tantalizingly hilarious teaser trailers and the promise of a brilliantly stupid, frat-boy comedy classic, here it is: Hot Tub Time Machine.
In the proud tradition of Dude, Where’s My Car? and Snakes on a Plane, the title is also the synopsis. Four down-on-their-luck friends (John Cusack, Rob Corrdry, Craig Robinson and Clark Duke) head to the mountains for a weekend getaway and discover a hot tub that hurtles them back to 1986.
It’s as dependably goofy, raunchy, profane and juvenile as you’d expect—and maybe even more so. Within the first 15 minutes, you’ve got jokes about poop, urine and every other bodily secretion, plus dialogue seasoned so heavily with the “F”-word; you’d think the screenwriters were gunning for a Guinness Book record. I know this is supposed to be a so-stupid-its-funny farce, but it’s often so childish, it makes The Hangover look like Annie Hall.
Cusack has some funny moments late in the film when his character finally cuts loose, but he stays firmly committed to his sad-sack demeanor, killing any chance of a great Cusack comedic turn. He was much funnier in the films he actually made during the ’80s. Instead, the movie belongs to Corddry, who steals every scene he’s in. This is also a great showcase for Robinson, who’s hilarious on TV’s The Office but hasn’t had a big-screen role that taps his deadpan delivery—until now. The scene where he makes an angry phone call to a girl who broke his heart is one of the film’s gut-busting best.
I grew up watching Chevy Chase films and was disappointed that he’s so ill-used here; his character, a sort of all-knowing time keeper, isn’t well defined and tries too hard to squeeze easy laughs. Other ’80s-movie alumni who make cameos include an almost unrecognizable William Zabka, playing a grown-up version of the bully he embodied in The Karate Kid, and Crispin Glover, a riot as a hotel bellboy. Glover, best known for playing George McFly in Back to the Future, goes for comedy gold and scores in a film-length running gag that is totally tasteless but had me all but rolling in the aisle.
There are a few clever time-travel continuity gags, but the screenplay could have used more smarts. Nothing approaches the innovative playfulness of Back to the Future or even the Bill and Ted movies. What the movie does have is a lot of heart, more nostalgic jokes than a season of I Love the ’80s and an ending that makes perfect use of “Once in a Lifetime” by the Talking Heads. It’s not art, but if you remember the ’80s with affection, you’ll have as much fun as I did. Barry Wurst II, MauiTime