Hot Tub Time Machine is as ridiculous as its title and sillier than its premise, but delivers enough laugh out loud moments, raunchy humor, and ’80s nostalgia to satisfy a craving for warm, comfortable R-rated comedy.
The farce introduces Adam (the lovable John Cusack), Nick (the ubiquitous Craig Robinson), and Lou (the hilarious Rob Corddry) as three former friends who reunite after Corddry’s attempted suicide. The latter insists it was an accident (“If I wanted to kill myself, I’d fucking kill myself. I’d be awesome at it!”), but his pals insist on a road trip to relive their glory days.
Adam’s socially-awkward nephew Jacob (Clark Duke) tags along to a ski resort they visited back in the day, only to find the town and their favorite hot spots a dilapidated, disappointing version of its former self, like the worn, miserable trio who traveled there.
Nothing temporarily cures unhappiness like booze, so a night of drunken debauchery ends in all four sharing the bubbly delights of a magical hot tub. They come to their senses inside their old bodies (except Jacob, who wasn’t born yet) in the not-so-magical year 1986.
The decade’s stereotypes are on full display, including neon DayGlo ski suits, ponytail scrunchies, leg warmers, and Ronald Reagan. Characters make blunt references to time travel movies like Back to the Future and The Terminator, as well as “weren’t the ’80s goofy?” jokes about Alf, Kid ‘n Play, and doing lots of blow. Using the lessons learned from those two movies, the group sloppily avoids potential consequences of changing the past.
Though there are some clever recurring, self-referential bits from the period like George McFly himself, Crispin Glover, playing a surly one-armed bellhop with a passion for life in the past. Or the inclusion of a hotel repairman played by a wise Chevy Chase, whose career peaked around that time. Collar-popped frat boy enemies personify the paranoia of Red Dawn and, naturally, Cusack’s involvement means a Better of Dead reference is thrown in for good measure.
Director Stephen Pink, who wrote Cusack’s High Fidelity and Grosse Point Blank, usually keeps the chaotic plot on pace as it spirals to the obvious conclusion. A flimsy love story between Adam and sexy rock journalist April (Lizzy Caplan) provides all the redemption his character needs, as the rest clumsily resolve their problems in the present.
The foursome feed off each other well, combining Cusack’s frantic punchlines with Duke’s dry delivery, and their well-timed banter distracts from some particularly nonsensical plot points. Hot Tub Time Machine is no Hangover, but like the wild card character in that hit, Corddry is the best part of an otherwise uneven, yet surprisingly funny popcorn flick.
3.5 out of 5.