WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Adam’s (John Cusack) girlfriend has just left him, but he can’t relax at home, because his nephew Jacob (Clark Duke) is living in his basement. Adam’s childhood best friend Nick (Craig Robinson) is happily married, but feels down at missing out on a singing career. The third member of their gang, Lou (Rob Corddry), is the most depressed one of them all – he’s just been found, drunk and unconscious at the wheel of his car in an exhaust-fume-filled garage.
When Adam and Nick visit Lou in hospital, they decide the only way to perk him up is for the three of them to relive their youth by heading for a break at the ski-resort they frequented during their teenaged years. Unable to leave Jacob alone at home, they take him with them.
Loaded up with alcohol and little else, the four arrive at the chalet hotel to find it falling apart, but still operational – just – like the bellboy (Crispin Glover).
Chilling out in what somewhere smarter might be referred to as their “suite,” they decide to jump into the hot-tub together as they start working their way through their booze. Throwing their bottles around with carefree abandon, there’s a sudden flash of light.
When they emerge from the hot-tub and head to the bathroom, they get the fright of their lives when they look in the mirror. Adam, Nick and Lou look twenty years younger.
Something isn’t right.
They realise that through some malfunction of the hot-tub, they’ve been transported back to 1986 – at the exact time they last visited the same resort. But it’s not like Back To
The Future where they have to be careful not to bump into their young selves…they ARE their young selves. Apart from Jacob, of course, who wasn’t born yet.
With some help from a mysterious hot-tub repairman (Chevy Chase), the friends realise that in order to get back to the modern day, without changing the future, they have to re-enact every last element of their trip – for Adam, it means breaking up with his hot girlfriend, for Nick it means being unfaithful to his modern-day wife and for Lou it means getting beaten up repeatedly by thugs at the hotel.
If they deviate from history, they might not get back home – and Jacob might not even be born.
WHAT’S IT LIKE?
Hot Tub Time Machine is one of those Snakes-on-a-Plane kind of films where the title pretty much tells you everything you need to know. There’s a hot tub – and it’s a time machine.
It’s a time-travel, sex comedy, which doubles up as a 1980s love-fest; presumably a period when the film-makers themselves were being helped through their own teenaged years by big hair, the New Romantics and their first exposure to the fairer sex.
We’ve seen time travel done so often on screen, that it’s difficult not to draw comparisons. Cheekily, this has elements stolen straight from Back To The Future (Jacob disappearing from a photograph as events deviate from history, while others bet on sporting events whose results they can remember), while other elements are specifically – referenced to the same film – different; they ARE their old selves, so they don’t have to worry about bumping into themselves.
To make the plot work, they haven’t travelled too far into the past, but the result is that the world isn’t that different. In the aforementioned touchstone for the genre, the teenaged Marty McFly was completely out of place thirty years in the past, providing no end of comic opportunity – but here, there’s less fun to be had, because our protagonists remember what it was like back then – they’re reliving their own lives.
It does consider the idea of what you’d do differently if you could, combining it with the responsibility of having to do everything the same, to preserve the future, even if you’d rather do things differently. But this is not a film where such depths are really explored. It’s not really trying to say anything – it’s just an excuse for some adults to have some child-like fun.
Hot Tub Time Machine combines the best elements from every other time-travel film and every other teen-sex film and ends up a bit of an incoherent mess. There are smiles, rather than laughs – and viewers will have nothing like the fun watching it as the partying extras are having taking part.
The gags just aren’t funny enough and the deeper story – about a bunch of depressed guys coming to terms with the way their lives have turned out and becoming better people as a result – is about as original as using time travel as a device.
The script is well below the quality you’d expect from the likes of John Cusack, Daily Show regular Rob Corddry and Clark Duke, who was last seen in a small role in KickAss.
But it’s almost forgivable, because it doesn’t take itself at all seriously and the cast are clearly having fun, pulling out the best comic performances they can, with the mediocre material.