Directed by: Steve Pink (Accepted)
Starring: John Cusack, Craig Robinson, Rob Corddry, Clark Duke, Crispin Glover
While watching Steve Pink’s Hot Tub Time Machine, a friend who screened the film with me, kept asking how the movie got made to begin with, seemingly perplexed by its mere existence. I could only answer with a sheepish shrug, because really, I have no idea how or why this movie exists either. It’s a silly concept (centered around a—wait for it—hot-tub time machine) anchored in place only by people’s memories of a time when John Cusack was palatable. There’s also some evidence that the studio forgot why they made this movie, too, since all signs—and a few miscues in the film—point to a dust-collecting period of a few years sitting around on some studio shelf.
Cusack—playing the usual Cusack role, apparently now ad infinitum—is Adam, a lonely, recently separated business-type who lives in a nearly empty house with his nephew Jacob (Clark Duke, Sex Drive). Jacob is a dorky shut-in who spends his free time on the Internet. After a suicide attempt by his one-time best friend Lou (Rob Corddry, W), Adam is stuck taking a trip with him, Jacob and his other longtime friend Nick (Craig Robinson, who I unfortunately now only want to refer to as his character name in the awful Miss March: Horsedick.MPEG). Together they set off for a rundown ski town that used to be the friends’ old haunt in the ‘80s.
A little booze and a malfunctioning hot tub later, the guys find themselves shot a couple of decades into the past as their younger selves, but with all their memories and knowledge of the future intact. The challenge then becomes reliving 1986 without accidentally changing the future.
The film might have worked if there had been a hint of absurdity to it all, beyond the simple premise of some dudes traveling to the past through, of all things, a hot tub. Instead, there’s an onslaught of R-rated misadventures embodied as sex jokes and bodily function humor. The gross-out gag isn’t exactly being taken to new heights here; if you’ve seen one vomit joke, you’ve seen ‘em all. On top of this, the ‘80s setting is never used for much more than to make fun of leg warmers and Jheri curls. There’s definitely room for satire, but the best that’s ever mustered are some generalized comments towards the Reagan administration.
It’s not all bad, however. A running gag involving various ways Crispin Glover might lose an arm is actually pretty good, while Nick calling his wife in 1986, who at this point is a 9-year-old, and confronting her about future infidelities is somewhat funny. But beyond this, there’s never more than a chuckle or two to be had, unless you’re the type that has a Pavlovian response to vomit-covered squirrels. Rated R for strong crude and sexual content, nudity, drug use and pervasive language.