Friday, March 26, 2010

Film Review – Hot Tub Time Machine

Writer: Josh Heald, Sean Anders and John Morris; story by Josh Heald
Director: Steve Pink
Producer: John Cusack, Grace Loh and Matt Moore
Cast: John Cusack, Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson, Clark Duke, Crispin Glover, Lizzy Caplan, Chevy Chase
Raunchy comedy, 1 hour 33 minutes

With a title like Hot Tub Time Machine, you’d think this movie couldn’t possibly be any good.

You’d be wrong.

It’s not masterpiece, by any means. But it is far better than it has any right to be, and a whole lot of fun. This was quite an unexpected surprise from the writers of the recent mediocre frat-boy comedy Sex Drive. The high-concept premise is simple enough. Adam (John Cusack), Nick (Craig Robinson) and Lou (Rob Corddry) head off to a ski resort with Adam’s nephew Jacob (Clark Duke) to relive the supposed glory days of their youth. Though the resort has crumbled as much as their own lives, a freak accident causes their hot tub to transport them back to 1986.

The movie not only takes the characters back to the 80s, but takes the audience back as well. We get to relive our own experience of 80s movies with one reference after another to hit films from that decade. Time travel movies came into their own in the 80s with films like Back to the Future, Time Bandits, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, and The Terminator. Crispin Glover, who was George McFly, has a great supporting role as a one-armed bellboy. There’s also a sly parody of Back to the Future’s prom scene.

But the film also tips its hat to other 80s films such as Sixteen Candles, Red Dawn and The Karate Kid. As well as casting 80s icons John Cusack in the lead role (he also became a producer on the film), we get cameos from others like Chevy Chase. Rob Corddry (formerly of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart) and Craig Robinson are both standouts in their respective roles as drunken loser and frustrated musician.

It won’t be for everyone. Anne Thompson of IndieWire called it a “crass dumb male fantasy.” That may be the case but since I’m a male, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I thought it even better than last year’s dumb guy-comedy hit The Hangover. There are similarities – four men hitting the road and getting in trouble. But The Hangover’s title was misleading, since there were no actual hangovers. Hot Tub Time Machine is pretty much what it says it is.

Its title was potentially terrible, but it works. John Cusack himself was on a late-night talk show saying that when his agent first told him the title, his response was, “okay – but really, what’s the title?” Perhaps it lowers expectations so much that the dumb humour ends up getting big laughs. It’s so dumb that it’s brilliant.



  2. John Cusack (Jake Rose, teen) as Adam Yates
    Rob Corddry (Brook Bennett, teen) as Lou Dorchen
    Craig Robinson (Aliu Oyofo, teen) as Nick Webber