Fun times in the Hot Tub Time Machine

Article Published: Apr. 1, 2010 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
Fun times in the Hot Tub Time Machine

Any review of Hot Tub Time Machine, I believe, must start with a question: Does the title Hot Tub Time Machine sound appealing to you? If it sounds like a movie you want to see, then get on down to the theater because it's hilarious.

If that doesn't sound appealing and you think it sounds stupid, well, thanks for reading this far. The rest of the review will focus on how funny this wacky comedy is, but I'll be honest: I was one of the people who got excited when I saw the preview for Hot Tub Time Machine.

The previews were so good that I feared a letdown, and few things are more disappointing than when a movie you think is going to be funny isn't. Luckily for me, the makers of Hot Tub focused their comedy on well-rounded, likable characters instead of potty humor.

It's still got plenty of potty humor, of course, because it's called Hot Tub Time Machine. But unlike other movies with plenty of low-brow humor, the laughs come from how these characters react to the bizarre situations that unfold. These are truly funny characters, whose odd logic dictates the strange places they find themselves, and the film actually contains a bit more reality than one might expect.

Hot Tub actually starts out on a rather dark note, as estranged best friends Adam (John Cusack, 1408 and 2012) and Nick (Craig Robinson, Pineapple Express) meet at the hospital after an accident involving the unreliable Lou (Rob Corddry, TV's The Daily Show). A doctor tells Adam and Nick to keep an eye on Lou, so they decide to take a trip to the ski lodge they loved as youth. Adam's nephew, Jacob (Clark Duke), who devotes more attention to his Second Life online than his actual life, tags along.

The old ski lodge turns out deserted, much like the town, but things pick up when the guys realize that the hot tub on their porch has been repaired. After a night involving an epic bender, the friends wake up and hit the slopes, which are crowded with people wearing coats of various neon colors.

They soon realize that it's 1986, and they inhabit their teenage bodies from 1986. Except Jacob, who was born after 1986 and appears like his normal self.

A mystical hot tub repairman (Chevy Chase) appears to fix the machine - and warn them of the dangers of changing the future. Being guys who loved Back to the Future, they begin to recite lines they probably used frequently when discussing time travel after watching Back to the Future. They know what's at stake.

Although many of the plot devices will be familiar to anyone who's watched time travel movies, the characters react in unpredictable ways. Robinson is hilarious as Nick, a guy whose 2010 self is making him feel funny about living as his 1986 self, while Corddry plays the "annoying friend" character with reckless abandon. Lou is the kind of guy who knows no shame, and Corddry has a lot of fun with the role.

Almost every scene of this movie is funny - I laughed throughout Hot Tub Time Machine, and that's a rare feat for any comedy. What stands out for me, however, is the decision by the writers and director Steve Pink (Accepted) to tackle some serious subjects without making light of them. But Hot Tub walks the line carefully and, in the process, creates some heartfelt laughs and meaningful context. I'm reminded of the genuine and surprising depth of Don Coscarelli's Bubba Ho-tep, a film that captures the sorrow of an old man looking back on his life in the midst of a story about how Elvis and John F. Kennedy, living in a nursing home together, have to fight an ancient Egyptian mummy.

Hot Tub also contains a surprising depth that elevates it, I think, above other comedies like it. It's certainly one of the funniest, too, but it's not hollow - it's about real characters with real problems in ridiculous scenarios.

It's called Hot Tub Time Machine - and it's even better than I had hoped it would be.

Hot Tub Time Machine, rated R for strong crude and sexual content, nudity, drug use and pervasive language, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone.

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