Hot Tub Time Machine
Directed by Steve Pink. Starring John Cusack, Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson, Clark Duke, Chevy Chase, Lizzy Caplan, Crispin Glover. (2010, R, 98 min.)
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., April 2, 2010
A metaphysical mind-bender posing as a snarky, self-aware tribute to Eighties teen movies, Hot Tub Time Machine sidesteps the question: "If this is a parody/homage of a specific genre of films that is now regarded as clichéd and self-important (albeit fondly remembered and occasionally expertly crafted), does that mean that Hot Tub Time Machine's own inherent clichés and steadily mounting earnestness are part of the parody?" In other words, is Hot Tub Time Machine lousy on purpose, or what? Perhaps only Chevy Chase knows, but he's not telling, and his Pleasantville-esque cameos only further the notion that this whole film was pitched from somewhere south of Planet NyQuil. Screenwriters Josh Heald, Sean Anders, and John Morris have gone to relative extremes to include every aspect of Eighties teen sex comedies, party films, and John Hughes lites, but the aura of absurdity Hot Tub Time Machine strives to summon (as laid out in the tell-all title) is more Bill & Ted than Better Off Dead. If anything, the film doesn't push the weirdness far enough, although, to its credit, Glover is used to fine effect in a great repeating gag. Essentially The Hangover with, you know, a time-traveling hot tub, the film casts the pseudo-iconic Cusack as middle-aged everyman Adam who reunites with once-upon-a-teen best friends Nick (Robinson) and Lou (Corddry) after the latter, a former hesher gone to pot in more ways than one, attempts suicide. Along with Adam's post-millennial teen-bot of a nephew (Duke, soon to be seen in Kick-Ass), the trio hits the road and returns to the ski resort that was once the epicenter of their youthful, hard-partying identities. Alas, it, too, is a faded remnant of what it once was, until, obviously, that titular hot tub goes haywire, resulting in the sort of hit-or-miss gags that are more the provenance of the Scary Movie series than anything else. Even Cusack seems to be phoning it in, and the plot, even while aping the stringent codex of Eighties teen flicks, feels decidedly ramshackle, scattershot, and decidedly overfamiliar. There's a lesson to be learned here, Hot Tub Time Machine ultimately tells us, but it's not "Embrace the chaos," as one character succinctly puts it. It's more along the lines of "Be careful what you wish for, because you might just get it." Consider this yet another nail in the Eighties coffin.