Back in January, I was invited to attend an early screening of a little film called Hot Tub Time Machine. It was a rough cut and it was, well, a little rough. The editing needed to be tighter and a few side story issues needed to be resolved. Now it has been completed and the finished product is, well, still a little rough. It's a shoddily structured, messily interpreted hour and a half trip through an unoriginal screenplay reminiscent of dozens of other time traveling films that simply replaces whatever time traveling device they used with a hot tub. Still, its goofy nature and fun, unabashed ridiculousness are hard to deny.
The story, as irrelevant as it may be, can be summarized in one sentence. After Lou, played by Rob Corddry, tries to kill himself, his friends Adam, Nick and Jacob, played by John Cusack, Craig Robinson and Clark Duke, travel to their old vacation spot, a ski resort in the mountains, where they are transported back to the 80’s via hot tub and must travel in the same footsteps they did all those years ago, lest they disrupt the past and change the future for the worse.
Much like Snakes on a Plane or the more recent Ninja Assassin, Hot Tub Time Machine is a movie most will want to see based on the delightfully absurd title alone. Those people will not be disappointed. Like a good spoof movie, the film never stops with the jokes. It never bothers with heart or meaning or character development. It simply provides a constant string of gags that allow the four actors to play off each other.
Unfortunately, for every hilarious joke, there was one that fell flatter than an anorexic supermodel, including disgusting bodily fluid jokes that even the most juvenile of viewers will find degrading. Blood, urine, vomit, you name it, this movie has it. In the first 20 minutes alone, you get all of the above and then some, bringing to mind a scene where Nick digs out keys from the anus of an animal and throws them at someone. This type of lowbrow humor is to be expected, but that doesn't make it funny.
It's during the more perceptive scenes that Hot Tub Time Machine really shines. It knows what it is—over-the-top, tongue in cheek and very silly—and it takes its 80’s setting and capitalizes on it. Cusack, known for his seminal roles in 80’s films like Say Anything, is used to the fullest and the film puts him in situations that echo movies of that era, even going so far as to duplicate one of the most famous shots from Sixteen Candles, a film which he played a minor role in.
In a way, Hot Tub Time Machine is kind of smart in its stupidity. There is nothing going on behind the camera, but the comedic chemistry of the four actors is good and the witty script prove some thought went into it. It’s ironic, really. The film has brains, but you’ll have to turn yours off to enjoy it.
Hot Tub Time Machine receives 3/5