June 19, 2010


Hot Tub Time Machine is way better than it has any right to be.  It’s the story of three forty-something men, Adam (John Cusack), Lou (Rob Cordry) and Nick (Craig Robinson).  Once upon a time, twenty years ago, the guys were best friends who would cut loose at a ski resort in Kodiak Valley.  None of them are happy with the current states of their lives, highlighted by Lou’s recent episode of falling asleep in a parked car/suicide attempt (the exact verdict here depends on who’s making the call).  In an attempt to relive some past glory, the trio – along with Adam’s nephew Jacob (Clark Duke) – rolls to Kodiak Valley.  Only the place is nowhere near what they remembered it as.  It’s now a fallen paradise of boarded up shops and ratty hangouts.  And that’s when a repairman played by Chevy Chase shows up to fix the broken hot tub in their nasty motel room.  After he tinkers with it, the guys hop in and soon find themselves back in 1986 – the last year they rocked it in Kodiak.  More after the jump:

There are so many elements that work for this film (or rather, overcome that pretty inane premise).  The first would be the performances.  Whether it’s Lou’s constant need to dig deeper into further depravity, no matter where he is or what he’s doing or Nick’s struggle to stay faithful to a woman who didn’t show him the same courtesy (which culminates in a late-night, obscenity-riddled phone call to a nine year old girl), Cordry and Robinson take turns stealing scenes.  It’s a testament – particularly to Cordry’s performance – that we still have sympathy for these guys when it’s all over.


The inevitable eighties references, while prevalent, are never overbearing (perhaps to a fault, more on this in a moment), even going so far as to give an extended cameo to Crispin Glover and a smaller one to ubiquitous eighties bad guy William Zabka.  And who can’t appreciate a few tips of the hat to Back to the Future (one of them being the staged performance of an anachronistic musical number) every now and then?  But if there’s a complaint about these references, it’s that there aren’t enough of them.  Aside from a few people being confused by the concepts of email and texts, quite a few comic opportunities are passed up (and with all those old school movie posters in everyone’s bedroom, there wasn’t a single Better off Dead, Sure Thing, or even a One Crazy Summer to be found).  It’s almost as if the filmmakers intentionally didn’t want to go too overboard with these gags.


The DVD’s extras are pretty scant.  The only one to speak of is an eleven minute reel of deleted material, a good chunk of which is primarily focused on Cordry’s and Robinson’s improvisations.  That’s not to say that these bits aren’t funny (they’re the best parts of the deleted scenes, in fact), but without a commentary or featurette, the supplementals are definitely lacking on this one.


Hot Tub Time Machine’s is loud, vulgar and due simply to its logline pitch, kind of dopey.  But with its strong performances, zippy pace and moments of hilarity, its head and heart are all in the right places.


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