“Hot Tub Time Machine” has a Frank Capra life is wonderful feel. The story of three old friends who try and relive the wildest weekend of their lives, and literally jump back in time all the way to the Regan years, is Capra-esque… if Capra swore like a sailor and infused his movies with sexual humor and vomit gags.
Following the attempted suicide of Lou (Rob Corddry) his only two friends Adam (John Cusack) and Nick (Craig Robinson), try and cheer him with a trip to the scene of their greatest party weekend ever—the Kodiack Valley Lodge. The place has seen better days, but through a magical combination of a hot tub and some illegal Russian Red Bull they are transported back in time to a sea of fluorescent coloured ski suits, Walk men and oversized Ray Bans—a.k.a. the Regan years. To a soundtrack of 80s hits like “Kick Start My Heart” and “Safety Dance” the guys and Adam’s nephew (Clark Duke) grapple with the mysteries of the space and time continuum. By exactly recreating the Winter Fest 86 weekend they hope to find a crack in time and get back to present day. Of course, the only thing more complicated than a fissure in time is three middle aged guys with a case stuffed with cocaine and booze.
I’m sure director Steve Pink (and producer Cusack) are likely hoping to emulate the success of that other recent buddy comedy of bad manners “The Hangover.” They have a good chance—it’s the only comedy opening this weekend—but its sense of absurdity and disjointed feel may dampen audience enthusiasm a tad.
Having said that, the movie aims to please audiences who would pay to see a movie called “Hot Tub Time Machine;” the nudity—both male and female—you’d expect from a whirlpool movie is in place, although just enough to keep it on this side of a PG rating. There’s also loads of Apatow style toilet jokes, barfing and off colour jokes, but what good time audiences may not be as prepared for the sentimentality that follows the Cusack character. Luckily that and the “will it be their chance to start over” dilemma is dispensed with fairly quickly and only briefly throws the movie off balance.
Comedy wise “Hot Tub Time Machine” belongs to the lesser known members of the cast. Corddry, best remembered as the manic second banana in movies like “Blades of Glory” and “Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay,” is off the hook as the volatile Lou. Rather than worry about the consequences of tampering with time, he looks at the upside of a slightly altered world—a future where Miley Cyrus doesn’t exist and “Manimal” is still on the air. Finally someone has figured out how to put Corddry`s unhinged energy to good use.
Craig Robison, seen every week on “The Office” and, recently, as the best thing in lame movies like “The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard,” and “Miss March,” brings a great deadpan to the mix and owns several of the film’s funniest moments.
“Hot Tub Time Machine” could have been the comedy equivalent of “Snakes on a Plane,“ a great title and not much else, but despite a couple of dead spots and jokes that may not mean much to anyone born after 1976—will they get the Cold War jokes?—it aims to please and is loud, overbearing and fun—kind of like the decade it pokes fun at.