Funny? Yes. Kids? NO.
By Roxana Hadadi
Oh, “Hot Tub Time Machine.” You’re one of the funniest movies a child should never see.
The latest in a string of much-hyped R-rated comedies – think “She’s Out of My League” and last year’s phenomenally successful “The Hangover” – “Hot Tub Time Machine” takes your typical crude humor + nudity = fan favorite formula and injects it with the vintage silliness of the ‘80s, a combination that works thanks to hilarious plot developments and solid turns from the film’s four main actors. Plus, great costume and musical choices and some amusing running jokes work, too, making “Hot Tub Time Machine” a very funny way to spend 93 minutes.
But it’s really only funny if you’re old enough to get in. Much like how “The Hangover” had nudity, cursing and violence in nearly every scene, “Hot Tub Time Machine” is pretty much the same way: There are breasts, men’s butts and a plot development that makes the older actors look the same to us when they travel back in time, but appear younger to everyone back in 1986, so the relationship between a present-day John Cusack and his then-teenage girlfriend seems kind of creepy. Plus, bad language and drugs are sprinkled like candy and some adult themes, like relationship infidelity and suicide, may not necessarily be suitable for younger teens, either.
Things start off by introducing us to the four guys: Nick (Craig Robinson, “The Office”), who used to be the lead singer of a band named Chocolate Lipstick but now works at a pet spa-type place called Sup Dawg; Adam (John Cusack, “2012”), a rich professional whose girlfriend has recently moved out; Jacob (Clark Duke, “Greek”), Adam’s 20-year-old nephew who is living in his basement because his mother/Adam’s sister couldn’t care less about her son and has recently moved in with her new boyfriend (“The taxidermist is stuffing my mother,” Jacob notes); and Lou (Rob Corddry), an alcoholic who drives home drunk and tries to kill himself by air-drumming along to his favorite song, with the car on and his garage door closed. Carbon monoxide poisoning, meet Lou.
But Lou’s attempt brings together Nick and Adam, who used to be his two best friends, and the three decide to revisit the old ski resort they used to frequent more than 20 years ago in order to cheer Lou up. When the trio and Jacob arrive at Kodick Valley, though, it’s not as they remember: Everything is run down and smells like cats, and the one-armed bellhop Phil throws around their luggage and is indicative of the resort’s severe lack of friendliness. Nevertheless, the four decide to make the best of it, rejecting Lou’s insistence that they hire an escort and deciding instead to get drunk in the hot tub. But instead of staying in the present, they end up transported in 1986 once Lou’s bottle of Chernobyl-ly, a Russian energy drink that’s been banned in the U.S. because of its dangerous ingredients, accidentally spills on the hot tub’s control panel.
Soon, they’re faced with the same old problems every time-travel movie has: Much like what happened in “Back to the Future,” Jacob could disappear if the events that caused his creation in 1986 don’t happen the exact same way. And similarly, if either Nick, Adam or Lou do anything different during the Winterfest ’86 weekend trip – like if Adam doesn’t break up with his then-girlfriend Jennie (Lyndsy Fonseca, “How I Met Your Mother”), or Lou doesn’t let the bully leader of the ski patrol, Blaine (Sebastian Stan, “Gossip Girl”), beat him in front of a crowd of people – the “butterfly effect” from their actions could disrupt their future selves.
Recreating everything from Winterfest ‘86 is easy to say but hard to do, though, and soon the trio is at odds as to whether they want to return to their lives or do things differently now in order to create a better future. And as they struggle, Jacob freaks out over ensuring his own existence, especially because the mysterious hot tub repairman (Chevy Chase, “Community”) isn’t offering any clues as to whether they’ll truly be able to go back to the future.
Though the film certainly has its predictable moments – such as when Adam meets another girl, April (Lizzy Caplan, “Party Down”), who may be the one, or when Nick returns to his singing passion by stealing a song from the Black Eyed Peas and performing successfully at the resort – it delivers in a goofy, genuine way that will keep you smiling. Nods to absurdities from the ‘80s, like neon ski suits, Alf and the film “Red Dawn,” are charming in the same way Billy Idol was in “The Wedding Singer,” and though the script isn’t stellar, it doesn’t really need to be. Instead, there’s enough character development here and running gags – like waiting for the moment when Phil will lose his arm – to negate the need for sophisticated humor.
Plus, Corddry, who you may recognize as being a correspondent from “The Daily Show,” steals the film as the obnoxiously rude, constantly pathetic Lou. As Nick explains in the beginning of the film, he’s “like the friend that’s the a–hole, but he’s our a–hole,” and Corddry certainly injects the role with a crude humor that completely fits with his self-hating character.
And overall, the film does deliver an almost touching message about being comfortable in one’s skin, kind of like what Reese Witherspoon realizes at the end of “Pleasantville.” Add in a lot more nudity, vulgarity and drug use, though, and in “Hot Tub Time Machine” you get a way funnier – and less morally heavy-handed – film. Just don’t take the kids
Roxana Hadadi last reviewed “Diary of a Wimpy Kid.”