Originally Reviewed – 4/24/2010
Just to set the stage for this review, Hot Tub Time Machine is not the type of film I usually run out to see in theaters. For me, films like this are better enjoyed coming across as opposed to actively perusing. So, imagine my surprise when a friend from work invited me out to see this film and I brazenly said, “Sure, why not”. Based on initial trailers, this looked to be a combination of Old School meets Old Dogs meets…well…Old Standard Comedy. Besides, nothing was going to tickle me like The Hangover did, so my expectations were pretty low. And the result?
Expectations met. Hot Tub Time Machine is exactly as advertised; a silly, at times funny but ultimately disposable film about men longing for the glory days of their youth, and getting it.
The premise is simple enough. Four old friends go on a ski weekend to their old teenage stomping grounds only to find the place in almost ruins. Things aren’t looking to go their way until they get hammered in the room hot tub, spill some energy drink on the console and BLAM-O, they get rocketed back to 1986. There, in their teenage forms no less, have the choice to either re-invent their history, potentially ruining the fabric of time or play things exactly as they happen so nothing in the present gets messed with. The story does just enough to stay out its own way and while the crux of it gets a bit muddled with time travel and all of that, it does a fine job as a backdrop for the obligatory 80’s references and gross out jokes.
And boy, is there a whole lot of that going on. Folks who grew up in that time period will surely appreciate the Motley Crue soundtrack, the neon legwarmers and the wacky hairstyles that make up the bulk of this movie. Me? I have no real connection to the time period, so the joke was lost on me. While there’s enough comedy to get over this hump, I imagine a good understanding of time period will help.
As for the gross out factor, it is here in spades. Every sort of bodily secretion you can think of, or would rather not think of, is prominently featured in this movie. The Hangover had these “shock value” moments but in that film, they were naturally incorporated in the story where here, they are forced in to creep the audience. While I will admit, there is something fun about a whole theater of people gasping, “Yeeeeaaaahhuuucck” in union, it would have helped if those moments were naturally rooted in the story.
As for the cast, the characters are your standard mix of 40 something life drifters: a recent dumpee (John Cusack), an alcoholic party guy (Rob Corddry), a dog groomer who’s controlled by his wife (Craig Robinson) and video game nerd (Clark Duke). Each of the four do a fine job portraying the characters and while the script is very uneven, especially when they start arguing, the likeability of the characters elevates this film from standard comedy schlock to something a little bit more. It’s also worth noting that I really enjoyed the ending, not because the film was over (ha ha) but the direction they took was honest, in keeping with the characters not something you would expect from big budget Hollywood comedy.
As a result, Hot Tub Time Machine is, like I said in the opening, exactly as advertised: a fun buddy comedy that, while it doesn’t break any new ground, never takes itself too seriously either. Fans of films like The Hangover and Old School wont place HTTM on that level, but it’s a solid second string film that delivers on what it promises: a few laughs, a few retches and, if seen in the company of good friends, will offer some solid laughs on a Saturday night.
Score – 60%