Theatrical review: Hot Tub Time Machine

So what’s this one about then?

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Certificate: 15
Director: Steve Pink
Screenwriters: Josh Heald, Jarrad Paul, Sean Anders
Cast: John Cusack, Clark Duncan, Craig Robinson
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Running Time: 100 mins

If there’s one thing that sci-fi flicks have shown us it’s that time machines can come in many guises: sometimes they might be a DeLorean (or fridge, as it could have been), sometimes they might be a phone box (with optional knucklehead rock fans), but in director Steve Pink’s time-caper comedy it’s a hot tub that does the temporal transporting.

Adam (Cusack) and his midlife-crisis-ing buddies decide to take a trip back to the Kodiak Ski resort, the site of many hedonistic teenage weekends, to regroup, catch up, and help nurse newly divorced and suicidal Lou (Corddry) back from the brink. But after a night of male bonding (ie drinking) in the titular hot tub, they’re magically transported back to the winter of ’86 with a chance, Sam Beckett-style, to get their lives back on track.

Hot Tub is a gross-out tribute to the Eighties, featuring a star from the very same era in Cusack who gleefully rebukes the decade of “AIDS and Reagan”. Essentially, it’s The Hangover with a Back To The Future twist, with the cast throwing themselves headlong into their roles, their frenetic interplay and energy ensuring that even the film’s lazier gags still fire. There are some extended cameo appearances from Eighties luminaries too – Chevy Chase’s Hot Tub mechanic (forgettable); Back To The Future’s Crispin Glover (better) – but the film’s biggest asset comes in the shape of US comedian Rob Corddry who, as the hard-drinking, single-handed-smut-fest Lou, steals all the biggest laughs (including a bathroom scene after a bet goes wrong that’ll live long in the memory).

The story amounts to little more than a set-up for the gags, though, and there are some time-trips that will have grandfather paradox theorists rubbing their heads in bafflement, particularly the ending that doesn’t quite add up, irrespective of whether you’re Flux Capacitor-familiar or not. The performances, however, which are committed, ensure that the film’s middle-aged man-children are more endearing than grating and when the jokes come this thick and this fast (Michael Jackson’s Eighties versus Noughties complexion evolution; an ace running gag concerning a tragic arm accident; iPhone = Soviet spy) it would be missing the point to take it too seriously. Especially when the film never takes itself that way at all.

Time travel conundrums and a scattershot story aside, this comedy is more hit than miss. Dumb and fun.