Thursday, March 25, 2010

Review: "Hot Tub Time Machine"

A movie called "Hot Tub Time Machine" sounds like a really bad sex comedy from the '80s -- except that it's actually a pretty decent comedy about some fortysomething guys who get to relive their wild teen days.

It even stars John Cusack, a guy who made his bones in flicks like "The Sure Thing." He gets to headline a movie that is not so much poking fun at the Decade of Reagan, as mocking movies of that era.

In fact, when Cusack and his crew get back to 1986 Kodiak Valley, the setting is almost a straight lifting of "Hot Dog: The Movie": Lovable losers take on preppie bullies at a partying ski lodge, with a whole lot of binge drinking and topless shenanigans.

It's an orgy of teased hair, DayGlo-colored outfits and hard-rock love ballads. And it's actually pretty dang funny.

Cusack, Craig Robinson and Rob Corddry are Adam, Nick and Lou (whose nickname is "The Violator," which I hope he did not give himself) -- three best buds and former party animals turned middle-aged has-beens.

As the story opens Adam has just been dumped by his girlfriend, Nick is stuck working at a pet clinic called 'Sup Dawg?, and Lou nearly dies rocking out to Motley Crue sitting in his garaged Firebird as deadly fumes spew.

They decide to recapture their glory days at Kodiak, but find the town hit hard by the Great Recession. Their old ski lodge is falling apart, and the surly one-armed bellhop looks suspiciously like Crispin Glover.

But after they jump into the hot tub and zap themselves 24 years into the past, they get a chance to right some wrongs.

For Adam, that means not breaking up with the dream girl he let get away. For Nick, it means not whiffing at his big shot on stage with his band. For Lou, it means not getting repeatedly beat up by the preppy ski patrol head goon.

Initially, the guys are not happy about going back in time. When they look at each other, they see their lumpy, graying selves. But in the mirror and to others, they're 19 again. After some dithering, they decide to revel in and remake their youth.

Adam's nephew Jacob (Clark Duke) is along for the ride, which threatens the sanctity of the time-space continuum since he wasn't even born in 1986. But given that the time machine is a hot tub, metaphysical musings are perhaps misplaced.

Oh, and Chevy Chase turns up as a cranky hot tub repairman who may or may not be in on the time travel. He keeps promising to repair the temperamental machine, and then disappears. He's like Mr. Miyagi crossed with Carl Spackler.

The constant stream of jokes about how strange and funny things were in the '80s somehow never gets old. The ski patrol convinces themselves that the iPods, cell phones and energy drinks they confiscated from the guys are actually a Russian plot.

And I liked the bit where Jacob meets a girl, and asks how he'll get in touch with her since he can't e-mail, text or call her on her cell: "You just come find me." "That sounds so exhausting."

"Hot Tub Time Machine" is essentially just a clever retread, but at least it's a consistently humorous one.

3 stars

1 comment:

  1. I for one found it rather amusing, and was worried that my favorite critic might trash it. Not to worry, your review: well written (of course) and dead on. Sure, it's not for everyone. But for your 42.9 year old airline pilot (who graduated HS in 1985) stuck in Spokane, WA on a layover, many laughs. Movies are supposed to entertain, it did. That hot tub in my backyard here, just need some Chernobly!