At least nobody can claim they saw Hot Tub Time Machine under false pretenses.
Movie titles, after all, don’t get much more straight forward than that of director Steve Pink’s wastoid comedy in which four men whose lives have amounted to very little take off their clothes and soak in a tub. The rest, as they say, is history – this time in a fairly literal sense.
Adam (John Cusack), Lou (Rob Corddry), Nick (Craig Robinson) and Jacob (Clark Duke) set off to relive the good ol’ days. They head out for a weekend on the slopes at a ski lodge where, when they were young and brash, they partied long and hard. Upon arriving they’re disappointed to discover things ain’t what they used to be: the town is run-down and abandoned and the lodge is old and decrepit, about as happenin’ as a Tang party with grandma.
At this early stage in the story the message appears to be obvious: believing one can relive the past is folly. Holding onto memories is precious, reliving them impossible. That message is then deliciously contradicted when the boys jump in a hot tub, drink up a storm and go on to do precisely that. Soon they’re back in 1986: the clothes are gaudy, cassette players are in, Michael Jackson is black and it’s party time once more.
The group’s initial philosophy is not to alter the course of time in any way, lest the butterfly effect starts flapping its wings and reality changes for the worse. This means Adam must cop a fork in the eye after breaking up with his girlfriend, Lou must get beaten up and humiliated by a punk ski patrol goon and Nick must get booed off the stage at a badly botched gig.
However, the temptations associated with a second chance prove too great and historical revisionist shenanigans ensue. The time travelling shtick feeds into toilet bowl comedy and vice versa: the flippant and irresponsible Lou, for example, makes a pile of money predicting a football game he remembers well, so confident he agrees to add an act of homosexual fellatio to the stakes. Lo and behold, the past has subtley changed – and yeah, expect this kind of humour throughout.
Hot Tub Time Machine features a rare performance from Chevy Chase (whether this is a vice or a virtue is your call) and he rehashes the same shtick Christopher Walken employed in Click: that of a wacky character who acts as a sort of technician for the time travelling apparatus and is at best superfluous to the narrative.
In a neat way of dodging the characters’ inevitable variations of appearance between their young and older selves, the four men (plus the audience) see each other as their current selves but everybody around them sees their younger versions, which are occasionally (and entertainingly) presented to the audience in mirror reflections and flashback scenes.
The cast is nothing special – there is no performance of the masterfully dopey calibre of Zach Galifianakis in The Hangover – but the blokey synergy between them works well. It’s nice to see John Cusack return, with a little help from a time-cheating premise, to the realm of 20-something lafs.
Pink sustains a fun retro party vibe that will make Hot Tub Time Machine a surefire hit with the yoof audience, plus older crowds up for low calibre laughs. The gags tap into pop culture and sex and drugs, and the time travelling tangent means there are certain inevitabilities – i.e. lines like “what is email” and “I’ll text you.” Anybody who’s ever tried their hand at writing low-brow comedy will understand that clever stoopid humour is not a contradiction in terms and movies like Hot Tub Time Machine can be smarter than they let on. That’s not an excuse, BTW – come in with the right frame of mind and this charmingly dopey movie will work its mellow magic.
Hot Tub Time Machine’s Australian theatrical release date: April 22, 2010.