Sunday, November 21, 2010

"Hot Tub Time Machine" (2010)

Starring John Cusack, Rob Corddry and Craig Robinson
Written by Josh Heald, Jarrad Paul and Sean Anders
Directed by Steve Pink

I was wary going into this one.  I'd heard from a couple of people that it was just downright stupidly unfunny.  But last night, over at Andy's house with some pizza and a couple of beers we threw in "Hot Tub Time Machine," and you know what?  We loved it.  It's just our kind of geek silliness, with references to all kinds of 80s culture mixed with nerdy time travel jokes.

Adam (John Cusack) comes home to find he's been dumped by another girlfriend.  He's grown apart from his two best friends Nick (Craig Robinson), a former singer who now works at a pet grooming salon, and Lou (Rob Corddry), a party guy who can't seem to get his life together.  Adam's anti-social nephew Jacob (Clark Duke) lives in his basement, spending his time playing videogames.  One day, Adam learns that Lou is in the hospital after an apparent suicide attempt, which he denies.  Adam and Nick come up with the idea of taking Lou away on a weekend getaway to a favorite old ski resort of theirs from their youth to try and have some good times and reconnect.

When they arrive, however, they find that the resort has fallen on hard times. The town is practically shuttered, and the lodge isn't in the best of shape.  Still, they decide to spend the weekend.  They get wildly drunk and decide to hang out in the hot tub out on the deck, but someone accidentally spills a Russian alcoholic energy drink on the hot tub controls.  When Adam, Nick, Lou and Jacob awake in the morning, they find that they've somehow managed to travel back in time to 1986, a key weekend in their history.

While they can still see and hear themselves as adults, everyone else perceives them as they were back in 1986.  At first, the group believes that in order to preserve the future, they must do everything exactly as they had back in 1986, but eventually their frustration with how things eventually turned out leads them to begin altering things.  Adam broke up with a girlfriend, but this time he attempts to stay together with her, only to find that she breaks up with him.  Lou tries to win money by betting on a football game.  Nick tries to deal with the knowledge that his wife may be cheating on him, and sing an amateur concert that could change his life.  Jacob, as the odd man out, is the only one trying to figure out how to get them all back to the future and to preserve the future that they know.  Along the way, Adam, Nick and Lou will confront a lot of the reasons for the unhappiness in their lives. 

A lot of the jokes in "Hot Tub Time Machine" are nerdy, relating to the rules of time travel and the unpredictable nature of "the butterfly effect."  There are lots of references to the 80s and 80s movies.  The cult classic "Red Dawn" plays a key role in the plot as members of the mountain's ski patrol begin to believe that Adam, Nick and Lou may be Russian spies.  Crispin Glover appears, playing two versions of the same character - the young, energetic bellhop and his grumpy, one-armed future self.  Chevy Chase is the enigmatic hot tub repairman whose every line could possibly have two meanings.

Cusack is, as always, a very likable actor.  He has a tendency to just do the same thing over and over again - you know what you're getting with John Cusack, but that's alright because ... it's John Cusack.  His character arc itself is a sort of reference to his movies in and of itself.  He's the nice guy who gets dumped by the bitchy girl only to find the cute, quirky, perfect girl soon after.  The same could be said for Robinson and Corddry, who don't step outside their expected roles.  Robinson has that same sort of flat delivery that has made him famous on "The Office," and in bit parts in movies like "Zach and Miri Make a Porno," but it's used to great effect in numerous scenes.  That bit in the trailer where Robinson breaks the fourth wall, it's there in the movie and it's one of the biggest laughs in the show.

And there were a lot of laughs.  Make no mistake, there's a lot of stupidity here... but there's also a lot of clever lines and references mixed in with the raunch and the idiocy.  Throw in all the likable cast members, and it's a bizarre mix, but it works.  As I mentioned, this kind of thing is right up our alley.  I'm a big fan of time travel, and that sort of stuff is always a good place from which to mine jokes.  Juxtaposing past and present it always good for a laugh, whether its a kid from the future asking if a girl from the 80s will text him, playing a song by the Black Eyed Peas in 1986 to a crowd that is totally unprepared for it, or perhaps, the hilarious recurring gag regarding Crispin Glover's missing arm.

"Hot Tub Time Machine" was great, for someone like me.  We had a blast with the ridiculous time travel jokes, and general poking fun at the mid-1980s.  Your mileage may vary.  I know a couple of people who downright hated it.  I'm not one of them.