a critiQal film review Hot Tub Time Machine (2010)

  • DVD
  • Blu-Ray

Plot: 4 guys, unsatisfied with their current lives, return to the ski resort where they used to party to re-live happier times and get sent back in time in their Jacuzzi to 1986.

663 words (Est. Reading Time 3m 18s)

A comedy came to theaters a little while ago, and just the name, Hot Tub Time Machine had me thinking it was going to be pretty awful. But, with John Cusack among it’s stars, and a time travel trip back to 1986 (boy, the 80’s sure are fun in the movies, aren’t they?), it seemed like something worth checking out. I decided to wait for it to hit DVD…and then promptly forgot about it.

More than a year later, we were perusing the NetFlix® queue, and stumbled across Hot Tub Time Machine, now available for instant viewing. Feeling up for a little dumb comedy, we decided to give it a shot. Would the film turn out better than it’s name implied, or would this be just another comedy we should have avoided at all costs?

John Cusack does a good job of riding that line between serious and funny. A bit morose and downtrodden in most of his films, he nevertheless manages to make viewers smile despite his constant dour expression – or maybe because of it. In Hot Tub Time Machine, he does a good job of getting the viewer to care about his (once again) morose character, watching as he reinvigorates his life through a strange set of circumstances, despite his – and his friends – obvious dependency on drugs to get them through each day.

While co-star Clark Duke only shines when unleashing a hit song from the future on an unsuspecting crowd during ’86, Rob Corddry – a past “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” (TV) staple, never really gets a chance to win over viewers, playing the gross-out man of the group. His brashness tends a bit too much toward the obscene, turning a rough-around-the-edges character takes everything a bit too far, turning the raunchy comedy into something a bit too disturbing to be actually enjoyable.

The youngest of the bunch, Craig Robinson, plays the straight man to this odd conglomeration of characters. With a vested interest in leaving things the way they are, he tries to keep everyone in line – something that gets increasingly harder to do as the film goes on. Still, the viewer gets the ,span id=”movee”>Back to the Future Marty vibe in his character, so will appreciate his role a bit more than expected.

The storyline is absolutely ridiculous. A group of friends get together after a suicide attempt (played off in an oddly lighthearted fashion for most of the film) and try to re-connect at a ski resort where they spent their most memorable times as youths. Once there, they eventually find themselves partying in a hot tub off their room – and wake up the next morning in 1986.

And that’s just the beginning. With a maintenance repairman who appears and disappears at will (is he real or imagined?), a re-connecting with their pasts and re-living them, complete with their radically different adult minds and knowledge of the future factored in, and a running Back to the Future (1985) – with an R rating – homage, Hot Tub Time Machine is just plain ridiculous.

But that isn’t to say it doesn’t have it’s moments. It’s nice to see that Back to the Future still gets the nod from films even so many years later (who doesn’t have a fond memory or two of at least the original film?), but Hot Tub Time Machine tries to make the viewer accept that it’s “we’re better because we have an R rating” attitude is correct – even when it clearly isn’t.

Still, when Clark Duke gets on stage and starts belting out a hit by the Black-Eyed Peas after warbling his way through Rick Springfield’s 80’s tune “Jessie’s Girl”, well, you can’t help but get a kick out of it. A bit too raunchy, a lot muddled, sloppily uneven and just plain ridiculous overall, Hot Tub Time Machine still manages to provide a few laughs amongst it’s over-the-top raunch sequences – which is much more than I ever expected from it.

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