‘Back to the ’80s’
Hot Tub Time Machine re-imagines a classic, glosses over the details
One can’t help but feel a little sorry for John Cusack when watching Hot Tub Time Machine. After all, we knew him in the ’80s. Here, he seems kind of sad, like he really is longing for those good old days, even re-enacting a major scene from Sixteen Candles (which he had a minor part in).
That said, the movie isn’t all bad. It feels like a plot from 25 years ago, with a hot tub doubling as a time machine and a group of friends getting a chance to relive their happy-go-lucky days. Literally.
Three buddies head out to the ski resort where they spent some of the best vacations of their lives, including one blow-out weekend back in 1986. Along for the ride, reluctantly, is the younger Jacob (Clark Duke, Sex Drive), who’s been living with his uncle Adam (Cusack). Back in the day, Adam, Lou (Rob Corddry) and Nick (Craig Robinson) were the best of buds. Lately, they’ve lost touch. Apparently so has their fondly remembered ski resort, which has seen better days.
Enter the hot tub to whisk all their worries away. And then replace them with new ones.
When the group finds itself stuck in 1986 on the very weekend that defined much of the rest of their lives, they steal a few bits from Back to the Future. As they realize they actually are their younger selves, the yet-to-be-born Jacob (who is conceived on this fateful weekend) flickers and they realize they must do everything exactly the same as they did the first time. Adam must break up with his first love, Nick must lead his band once again, Lou must get the crap beat out of him by the jackass ski patrol. The consequences of changing the past is altering the future.
All the acting here is quite good, although Cusack is an ill fit among the cast of TV stars and B-movie actors (even Chevy Chase, who makes a guest turn here, is filling those roles these days). One addition that tickled me is that of Crispin Glover, who starred in Back to the Future the first time around and here is faced with the inevitability of losing an arm.
Director Steve Pink is a relative newbie, though he did write the screenplays for two of Cusack’s other, more successful, vehicles, Grosse Pointe Blank and High Fidelity. Maybe that’s why Cusack jumped into the tub. We can hope, and we certainly can forgive.
Everything about Hot Tub Time Machine, save for the ridiculous name, is average. There are a few standout scenes, like when Nick takes the stage as frontman for his band, and the big reveal at the end. But even those are ruined at least a little bit by a lack of common sense. I mean, really, who wants to go back to the ’80s anyway?