Synopsis: The outrageous laughs bubble up when four friends share a crazy night of drinking in a ski resort hot tub, only to wake up with serious hangovers in 1986 – back when girls wore leg warmers, guys watched Red Dawn and Michael Jackson was black! Now, nice-guy Adam (John Cusack), party animal Lou (Rob Corddry), married man Nick (Craig Robinson) and mega-nerd Jacob (Clark Duke) must relive a wild night of sex, drugs and rock-n-roll and try to change their future – forever!
Hot Tub Time Machine. The words alone make you wonder what kind of crack the filmmakers were smoking. You’d half expect a $#!tty-@$$ teen comedy of the variety that makes it straight to home video.
Except that it’s a teen comedy with adults in it. And an ’80s teen comedy made in the ’00s, for that matter. Oh, and did I fail to mention that it actually has a name actor in the form of a droopy John Cusack?
Hmmm… when I realized this, I began to think that there might actually be more to it than first appearances would suggest.
It portrays itself as a nostalgic trip back to the ’80s, where our protagonists can relive their teen years – but with an old coot perspective. This immediately elicits “what if?” daydreams galore in anyone who has had the slightest regrets with their lives; perhaps we could enjoy watching these guys change the course of their lives retro-actively in our stead?
But ‘Hot Tub Time Machine’ is really nothing more than a middle-aged man’s fantasy: being able to go back in time to have inconsequential sex with young women and party like it’s 1986 all over again – things that are virtually impossible when saddled with a family and/or other responsibilities. It’s about lost opportunities, yes, but this take on the popular theme lacks depth.
Ultimately, it’s mostly a loose series of scenes with no proper explanations as to why the characters do what they do. We know that they’re retracing their steps in order to avoid altering the future, except that we have no true sense of what they’re doing right and what they’re doing wrong – so the impact of their actions is completely watered down. Obviously, without context, what they do is pretty much meaningless to us.
I wish that at least the cast had engaged me, but none of them (not even Cusack!) were of any interest to me; all we got were three variations on sad and/or depressed. Also, I didn’t find that we were given enough material to work with so that we could relate to any of them. While we got a bit of background on each, it wasn’t enough to get attached to them – thus, any changes that would result from their actions in the past had less emotional resonance.
Even the ending left me cold. One might expect that, by the closing credits, we’d be invested in the characters enough to care about their respective fates, that they’d have endeared themselves to us, that we’d be served either with a feel-good moment and/or a gut-busting twist. Alas, our dull, dopey and dour agonists deliver a humdrum wrap-up devoid of any consequences (i.e. “here’s our ending, but don’t even ask us about the impact of any of it” ).
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Which bring me to a pretty important question: if Lou is staying behind, then why are the others going back to the future? By staying behind, he’s self-evidently going to alter the future – so their return is completely insignificant. They might as well stay behind with him, if only for the sake of knowing what’s going on when they get to 2010.
Because, let’s face it: with Lou changing the world, you KNOW it’s going to be messed up when you return to it! And who’s going to brief you on all that’s taken place in those 25 years? So you might as well stay and enjoy reliving your life with the wisdom of adulthood. Or prevent Lou from staying behind.
*MAJOR spoiler alert*
*Minor spoiler alert*
*Minor spoiler alert*
By the way, am I the only one who doesn’t remember rampant drug use in the ’80s?
In ‘Hot Tub Time Machine’, there are massive amounts of drugs! I mean, suitcases FULL of coke, crack, mushrooms, …etc. Is it possible that this is strictly a Hollywoodian, “alternate universe” version of the ’80s? Or was it more of a Californian reality (i.e. where the screenwriters would likely have experienced the ’80s) than a Canadian one? Well, whatever the case may be, I don’t recall the ’80s this way at all (and no, they’re not lost years. Hardly. ).
What IS appealing about this film is that it somehow manages to feel like an ’80s comedy, even though it’s from a different era altogether (so you’d expect modern aesthetics to dominate!). I was somewhat impressed by this, because it’s not a vibe I get to revisit in modern cinema much nor that I expected to be recreated so accurately.
With a title like “Hot Tub Time Machine”, it’s pretty clear to anyone watching the film that they should expect something absurd, if not downright silly. I was really in the mood for that, actually. Unfortunately, it wasn’t nearly as funny as I’d hoped it would be. And there really wasn’t enough hot tub action to make up for the lack of laughs.