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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Hot Tub Time Machine

Title: Hot Tub Time Machine

Year of Release: 2010

Date Viewed: August 13th, 2010

MPAA Rating: R

When I said that I enjoy watching time travel movies, I wasn't kidding. How else can I explain my motivations to rent something as sleazy and shameless as Hot Tub Time Machine, the latest raunchy comedy that came from over three full years of "can you top this?" humor. Time Machine doesn't top anything and may have actually set the bar too high for itself at one point. Luckily, it has a premise that saves this array of jokes some mediocrity land and some may even find it all-out hilarious.

Like most time-travel films, we start in the present day and meet our oddly matched crew of main characters. Nick (Craig Robinson), Lou (Rob Corddry), Adam (John Cusack) and his nephew Jacob (Clark Duke). All four are feeling blue so Adam decides that it's the perfect time to revisit the days of his youth and return to a location of nostalgia; Kodiak Valley Ski Resort. He invites his pals along for a wild weekend to boost their morale. The place isn't what it used to be and the town is mainly in shambles. But it's okay because they have enough beer to have fun anyway.

Then something strange occurs after the crew passes out from overdrinking in the resort hot tub. They wake to find themselves in the same place but in a whole different winter. It's 1986 and the resort is back to its prime era of loud parties and a wide variety of booze. Best of all, everyone's youth has returned. Although they still see each other as their present day counterparts, their peers see them in their 1986 appearance. All except for Jacob because he hasn't been born yet. His appearance remains the same. Time travel fanatics, please save your questions. I know it doesn't make sense. And no, the movie never explains it.

With another chance to score with the ladies that they passed on over two decades ago, the possibilities for improving the future seem endless. However, the eccentric hot tub repairman (Chevy Chase) warns them that altering events would be too risky. It's best to simply repeat what had already taken place in the timeline they had already experienced. But with how boring their present lives are, what do they have to lose?

The movie starts off on a roll and doesn't seem like it will ever slow down, but it does. After a rapid-fire opening half hour of nonstop wit and killer punchlines, the script takes a sudden nosedive in cleverness. Thankfully, it still has enough inspiration to keep it fun for the remaining sixty minutes. Expect insane behavior from characters and mostly self-aware plot holes. The movie only cares about being fun so you should go into it ready to have fun.

Speaking of fun, I can't think of any other film in recent memory that promotes binge drinking as much as this one does. Roughly every three minutes you will see a character hold a shot of whiskey in their hand or clanking beers with a group of pals. Excessive blood alcohol levels or hangovers don't seem to exist in this universe. In every follow-up scene, said character is as sober as nothing ever happened. If deliberate continuity errors isn't your thing, avoid this one at all costs. It will feel like a slap in the face.

I kind of wish that the humor wasn't so lowbrow because I believe it's becoming an overdone pattern in modern comedies. You don't need private part jokes to be funny although it sometimes helps. But I guess as long as its funny I shouldn't really complain too much. After all, I know from experience how hard it is to write comedy.

The writers must have had fun this one given how many 1980s culture references that were available to work off of. The movie successfully avoids the dreadful formula of movies like Kickin it Old Skool where they cram in as many references as possible to substitute for real humor. They are instead used as a backdrop here. And as seen in the video above, it also provides an effective montage of sorts for when the boys' new surroundings figuratively kicks them in the teeth. The other fun factor is leaving some punchlines open for improvisation. It's not lazy screenwriting but merely the open-ended kind.

There is also an amusing running gag involving the hotel doorman Phil played by time travel alumni Crispin Glover. He has one of his arms missing in the present but it remains intact in the 80s. The boys watch Phil's every reckless move hoping that they can witness the gruesome incident where the arm becomes dismembered. But they keep getting disappointed every time the arm is saved just in time.

Hot Tub Time Machine does things right by understanding why they are wrong. And then they throw the logic out the window in favor of insanity. It will probably take an equal amount of insanity to find this one amusing which won't be hard if you have enough beer. Cheers!

Rating: 7


  1. Hey Ian!

    My name is Nathanael Hood. Just like you, I am a college student with a budding film blog. I try to focus on under-appreciated movies and forgotten classics. I would love to exchange links with you are at least hear what you think about my blog. The link is:

    Leave a comment on one of the entries and tell me what you think!

    Nathanael Hood

  2. If you like time travel movies have you seen Timecrimes (2007)? If not, you will want to check it out. I think you'll like it.

  3. I have indeed watched Timecrimes and enjoyed it tremendously. I hope to review it in the future.