Review: ‘Hot Tub Time Machine’

Witness an absurdest buddy comedy throwback with a paper-thin premise and no justifiable reason why it should succeed at all… which is exactly what it does.

When their buddy Lou (Rob Corddry) winds up in the hospital after an apparent suicide attempt, friends Adam and Nick (John Cusack and Craig Robinson) decide to relive their glory days at a favorite mountaintop ski resort. Bringing along his sister’s bastard son Jacob (Clark Duke) for the experience, the group finds their old stomping ground a pale shadow of its former self. But after a night of drowning their sorrows with alcohol in a hot tub, they awake with a sense of renewal… in 1986.

From Gross Point Blank to this most recent film, there seems to be a temporal nexus overlapping John Cusack with 1986. Whatever the reason, anyone who’s ever looked back at the “good old days” has always wondered what it would be like to have a do-over, even when you’re told not to mess with established events. The fun in this film is not knowing what the rules are (especially when Chevy Chase is spouting Yoda-like time-guru advice that almost but doesn’t quite makes any sense.) In a case like this, all you can do is try not to hard to think about and just enjoy the ride.

In a twisted version of The Wizard of Oz, each buddy has something they’re looking for. One never got over dumping the “perfect girl,” one stopped pursuing his love of music, one never got over how his buddies weren’t there for him, and one never knew who his father was. With dialogue that sounds lifted from a writer’s meeting trying to come up with another Terminator sequel, it all works thanks to a great cast and clever comedic bits that, while absurd, never cross into true stupidity.

Springtime is a perfect time for little gems like this. Awards season is done and audiences are getting antsy for summer blockbuster fare, but these original (not remade) homespun comedies like last year’s The Hangover are cheap, encourage clever writing, and are great outlet for actors to have a little fun while making some quick bucks on the side. But if you happen to be in your late thirties or early forties, take a moment to ask “What if?” and see if you can remember all the words to Motely Crue’s “Home Sweet Home.”

(a three skull recommendation out of four)

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