“It Must Be Some Kind of...Hot Tub Time Machine”

Movie Title: Hot Tub Time Machine (2010)
Spoilers: none


Hot Tub Time Machine was one of the funniest, profanely entertaining, nostalgically satisfying movies I have ever watched. To put it any differently would be to do an injustice to this house-rocking film that both parodies and appreciates that decade of unrelenting showy coolness known as the 1980s.

Sure, the cars were square and the hair was everywhere, but the music alone would go on to define the decade, neverminding deductions for things like crimped hair, leg-warmers, and that abominable TV character, ALF. But forgive me for mentally cavorting in my own memories of a revere-worthy time of keyboards and minor chords.

John Cusack is Adam. Adam hasn't made it big in life. He's an insurance salesman, and his love life is way worse off than his career, which at best is only average. Life has done a number, not just on Adam, but on his best friends whom he has become detached from over the years. They are former potential music sensation Nick Webber (Craig Robinson) and Lou (Rob Corddry), an alcoholic victim of crippling depression with “suicide” as a middle name.

These three old friends have been planning to hook back up for a long time, but have never made good on the plans. They finally do after Lou's latest suicide attempt goes sour in hopes of livening his spirits. Off they go to the Kodiak Valley Ski Resort, teamed up with Jacob (Clark Duke), a 24-year-old, Second Life-playing cyber geek who is the son of Adam's sister, Kelly (Collette Wolfe). Soon after arriving, they discover, yes, a hot tub time machine.

Trying to understand their circumstance when they are transported back to Winterfest 1986 will only take a little time. Trying to understand the words of a mysterious riddle-making hot tub repair man (Chevy Chase) will take a little more time. Chase is showing his age, but he's still cool...because he's friggin' Chevy Chase.

Chief among the strengths is not the acting, just the way these guys rip on each other. The weaknesses...well, there are a few poorly built scenes still under construction and some plot devices that could have been done without. I just about stopped counting mistakes some 20 minutes in. Call me out for that if you must, but it's a lot harder to spot the glitches in a film that so makes you want to eat it up.

That purposely added cliché of a time traveling squirrel that periodically shows up is part of the fun. Close-ups of squirrels did happen to be an 80s music video thing, if you can remember. Just remember this: watching a comedy without wanting to have some fun is a bad thing, worse than not being old enough to remember the iconic over-the-top-ness of the Muscle Things generation.

The strengths are, naturally, the nostalgic queues that can make you want to laugh while realizing you miss seeing black dudes with 4-inch-tall afros, and of course, Mötley Crüe. The references to Poison, a still-dark Michael Jackson, Where's the Beef?, and a hundred other glorious and inglorious things from more than two decades ago are as stimulating as seeing Crispin Glover come back as “Phil,” a one-armed bellman with an attitude who knows he deserves every tip he has coming to him (Note: For those of you who don't know, Crispin Glover is that guy who played “George McFly” in Back to The Future).

Just seeing Phil and realizing who he was triggered a sudden head rush, a release of some chemical in my brain that had me recalling certain other pleasant sensations, certain smells and feelings awakened from an 80s childhood. “Hey you! Get your damn hands off!” Ah, I could do that all day—every good 80s movie gets a pass preventing it from being faulted for being quoted too often.

Upon rediscovering their sensational pasts of hope and greatness, the four spontaneous time-travelers are faced with a dilemma; keep things the same to preserve the future as they know it, or change them for the better by doing what they always wanted to do in pursuing different paths this time around. The choices will be a lot harder than watching Time Cop, Terminator, and The Butterfly Effect, their only referenced study materials for coping with this causal concern. Or do they have choices at all?

Hot Tub Time Machine is as ludicrously funny as it is “in your face,” with a bull-in-the-china-closet's disregard for portraying sobriety or the tiniest restraint of passion. Drugs, booze, nudity, and commitment-free sex are on the menu non-stop. But with a title like “Hot Tub Time Machine,” does that really surprise you? I didn't think so.

And let's talk about the title. Who would dare to make a movie (with a title or a plot) about a hot tub time machine? That says a whole lot; it doesn't say “cheap, crappy movie” as some have supposed; it says “a very good movie,” good enough to stroke its ego by not caring if it sounds sucky. It is nothing if not confident, and confidence is fine, so long as it has the goods to back it up, which it does in spades.



Grade: A- (4 stars) Recommended!
Rated: R (for nudity, profanity, violence, and adult situations)
Director: Steve Pink
Summary: Four friends go back in time to 1986 in a hot tub time machine.
Starring: John Cusack "Adam," Clark Duke "Jacob," Craig Robinson "Nick Webber," Rob Corddry "Lou," Crispin Glover "Phil," Chevy Chase "Repair Man," Charlie McDermott "Chaz," Lizzy Caplan "April," Collette Wolfe "Kelly"
Genre: Comedy / Sci-fi