Hot Tub Time Machine was probably green-lit because of the enormous success of The Hangover. It’s another raucous, R-rated comedy that chronicles the escalating misadventures of a group of male friends. However, if you’re expectingHangover-level guffaws (or Hangover-level creativity), you’re bound to be disappointed. Still, the movie’s good for a few laughs.
Adam (John Cusack, playfully riffing on his own career) has just been dumped by his girlfriend. He’s an insurance salesman, which actually makes him the most successful of his high school buddies: There’s Nick (Craig Robinson), who had dreams of making it as a musician but now works at a pet care store and just found out his wife his cheating on him. And there’s the even more pitiful Lou (Rob Corddry), who has no aspirations, no money, no relationships, and just attempted suicide.
To pull Lou out of his malaise, the guys decide to revisit their favorite vacation spot of their youth: The Kodiak Valley Ski Lodge. Along for the ride is Adam’s nephew Jacob (Clark Duke), who had been spending an unhealthy amount of time with his avatar in his basement.
The lodge, like everything else in the guys’ lives, has gone to seed, but they climb into the hot tub and are magically transported to the 1980s. When they look in the mirror, they realize that they’re not the middle-aged schlubs they’ve become, but their 19- and 20-year-old selves. (In a nice bit of casting, the young man Adam sees in the mirror is a dead ringer for 80s-era Cusack). What’s more, they’re re-living a particularly event-filled night from their past (fights! breakups! a Poison concert!). Everyone knows the drill: Change one tiny detail of the past and the whole world can be irrevocably altered. This is particularly worrisome to young Jacob, who wants to assure that he is born.
Hot Tub Time Machine has some funny stuff—Back to the Future’s Crispin Glover has a great recurring bit as a bell hop at the lodge. (In the present, he’s missing an arm, but in the past, he has both limbs—and several brushes with near-amputation as the night goes on.) Another funny bit involves Nick calling his wife in 1986 to profanely chew her out for cheating on him in the present. She’s 9.
But the film has more than its fair share of vomit jokes, and pee jokes, and homophobic jokes. That stuff is just plain lazy.
A de rigueur 80s soundtrack (Safety Dance, Modern Love, et al.) and cameos by Chevy Chase and Karate Kid baddie William Zabka help keep the nostalgic vibe going. (I guess James Spader was unavailable.)