So my husband and I went to see the movie Hot Tub Time Machine, as all 80’s children must. It was a disorganized, juvenile, giddy and ultimately funny raw joke fest. The level of raunch was more of the 1990’s movies vein — vomit gags and too much of Rob Corddry’s bare butt — but it was clear that much of the film was improvised with a how far can we push it ethos that was more celebratory than mean-spirited. While making time travel movie jokes, the film deliberately states that its plot will be purposefully illogical, but its basic premise is that three guys try to cheer up another guy by going back to their old ski resort stomping grounds, accidentally set off a hot tub time machine and end up back in 1986, where the three older guys look like their younger selves to everyone else and the young guy occassionally flickers like Marty McFly.
What was good about it:
1) John Cusack — He almost always delivers, but in this one, it was great to see him pull out all his old tricks from the 1980’s movies that made him an icon — the furrowed brow, the shoulder hunch, the slack-jaw amazement at others’ weirdness, the dippy, dislocated romantic patter, the curling in a ball, and the ranting, not very good inspiration speech — in a way that both saluted his past and made fun of it. I definitely was more interested in seeing the film because Cusack was in it (a position that caused me to sit through 2012 — never again!) and it really did add this layer of surrealism that made the movie to see him doing his thing as an older him dealing with his younger him.
2) His support crew — In the first part of the movie, Rob Corddry’s obnoxious, gross loser character is hard to take, but then he’s supposed to be. As the film goes on, though, he represents all the comic relief oddball characters of the 1980’s films who find their heart and courage, and he did that pretty well. Plus, his character did have the point that his pals let him get beat up by the ski patrol guys. Craig Robinson, who is becoming one of the go-to guys of comic character actors, does great as the guy most prone to panic, who then finds his soul on stage. (The scene where he calls his then nine-year-old wife is so wrong.) Clark Duke, representing the Apatow set and the 1980’s role of young initiate, balanced whiny geek snark well as the guy trying to get the older adults back home and who learns some lessons himself.
3) The cameos — Chief among them Crispin Glover as a perpetual, weird bellboy, Chevy Chase as the tub repairman/time travel wiseman, and William Zabka as an obnoxious resort guest. (If you don’t know why they are all important to 1980’s comedy films, look them up.) They all rocked their roles (Zabka could have used more screentime,) and, it sounds horrible to say, but waiting to see if Glover’s character loses an arm is one of the funniest running gags in the movie.
4) The ski patrol — Young actors Sebastian Stan and Charlie McDermott did the good-looking bullies of 1980’s comedies so well, it was scary. Would have liked to have had Stan and Zabka in a scene together, in fact.
What wasn’t so hot:
1) Squirrel abuse — Okay, it was funny, but so mean.
2) Bodily fluids — The 1980’s films were more about boobs than bodily fluids and I could have used more boobs and 80’s cultural references and less gags about liquids.
3) Women characters obviously don’t have as much fun or get a great image in the movie, but then, they didn’t in the 1980’s films either. We get one Pretty in Pink cool bohemian in Lizzy Caplan, and that’s about it. It’s definitely the guys’ movie.
4) They didn’t really have the classic 1980’s comedy scene where the loser heroes pull a successful, elaborate prank on the handsome bullies. Kind of missed it.
So I give it three stars out of five, with extra points for Cusack for making fun of himself. If you like movies like Caddyshack and One Crazy Summer, than you probably will like Hot Tub Time Machine. If not, stay away. It’s not like the film title doesn’t warn you.