Hot Tub Time Machine (2010)

3 Mar

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Smith’s Verdict: ***

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

Four men from 2010 have just discovered that they are in 1986. They believe that the hot tub they partied in is the cause of this. How does one of them consider this phenomenon? “It must be some kind of…hot tub time machine.”

That line in the movie aptly titled “Hot Tub Time Machine” is said directly to the camera, almost as if saying, “I know it sounds crazy. Just go with us.” That kind of confidence (I really believe that’s how the line was implied to turn out) is what makes “Hot Tub Time Machine” not as bad as it may sound. The filmmakers take chances with this premise and the actors have fun with it.

“Hot Tub Time Machine” is a cross between “Back to the Future” and “The Hangover” (with a hard R rating). Four men take a road trip to recapture their youth, and after stepping into the hot tub time machine, they find they are now living their youth in the mid-80s. While there, they try to have some fun, but also discover that they were just as miserable then as they were in 2010.

The friends are miserable enough. First, there’s Nick (Craig Robinson from TV’s “The Office”), a dog groomer whose wife is cheating on him. Then, there’s Adam (John Cusack), an insurance salesman whose wife just left him because he’s a bit boring. Then there’s Lou, the worst of them. He’s a party animal who may be suicidal. He lives too much in the past and never stops with the constant partying and ranting. Nick and Adam decide to bring Lou to the ski lodge they messed around at when they were young and having fun. Along for the ride is Adam’s 20-year-old nerdy nephew Jacob (Clark Duke), much to Lou’s anger.

When they find themselves back in 1986, looking the way they did back then (Jacob looks the same because he wasn’t even born then, although he flickers at some points that require it). They have to relive the events that occurred when they originally lived it—breakups that end in pain (for Adam, that pain comes from being stabbed in the eye with a fork) and concerts (Nick was a musician) that may go wrong. In the meantime, the hot tub time machine is being fixed by a mysterious fix-it guy, played by Chevy Chase. But trying to relive these events is harder than they imagined but funnier to us.

Lou supplies most of the film’s raunchiness and vulgarity. He’s played by Rob Corddry, who was previously seen in “Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay,” a film I hated (Corddry’s over-the-top performance in that movie didn’t help much either). I recall writing my review for that movie and stating that Corddry’s well-done yet ultimately sleazy and nasty performance as that movie’s main racist villain should have received a punch in the face for being so unlikable. He barely redeems himself here, stealing every scene he’s in (give or take about 3 or 4). It is possible to dislike this guy as Lou, but once you’ve gotten into the mood of the movie like I have, you come so close to forgiving him. OK, Corddry, you’ve gotten away with it this time.

The film is alive and supplies two terrific running gags. One involves a squirrel (I wouldn’t dare give away the surprise) and the other involves Crispin Glover as a bellman who has only one arm in 2010 but both arms in 1986…but it doesn’t seem like his arm will last long. This is a great running gag; many accidents happen in which the man may have lost his hand. If and when he loses it in their time period doesn’t matter. I laughed loudly. I also laughed at many of the complicated occurrences, such as when Jacob meets his future mother, who is a horny slut, and also funny are the pop-culture 80s references. There’s a great cover of “Jesse’s Girl,” a retro look at the ski lodge, and a ski patroller who believes the time travelers are actually Russian spies and that their energy drink-can is actually a bomb. Oh, and there’s a cameo by William Zabka (the bully from “The Karate Kid”).

John Cusack is good, but then again, he usually is. Craig Robinson and Clark Duke are great deadpans and strike the right notes in their performances—they’re very funny. It all comes back to Rob Corddry, who practically steals this movie. Like I said, he’s very easy to dislike and I’m willing to let him slide for this movie. After all, he just wants to be funny.

Oh, and there’s Chevy Chase as the mystical hot-tub repairman. I really didn’t find him very funny or effective at any point of the movie. He doesn’t even serve much of a purpose—he just shows up, winks at the audience, and that’s it. Worst of all, like I said, he’s just not very funny.

I enjoyed “Hot Tub Time Machine” for its quirkiness, its comedy, and its vulgarity in the right places. It’s not for everyone. Certainly not for people offended by the f-word (said probably more than 200 times here) and definitely not for people who think the whole idea of a hot tub time machine is lame.

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