Back to the ’80s
A movie where John Cusack hops into a hot tub time machine and travels back to 1986, where he must don ski gear and deal with relationship problems while tripping on mushrooms? Oh yeah, sign me up.
Hot Tub Time Machine stars a very game Cusack as Adam, a depressed insurance salesman who conspires with his friends Nick and Lou (Craig Robinson and Rob Corddry) to revisit a ski lodge where they once shared their glory days. They bring along Adam’s awkward nephew, Jacob (the ever funny Clark Duke), and are set for a weekend of hardcore partying, only to discover that their beloved place has turned into a dump. They soldier on and jump into a mysteriously reinvigorated hot tub which inexplicably transports them back nearly two and a half decades.
The boys, not knowing they have time traveled, suit up for a day of skiing which, of course, brings to mind Cusack’s Better Off Dead. Fellow skiers’ wardrobes—leg warmers, big hair—makes them suspicious, and a mirror revealing them as their younger selves clues them into their predicament. While the older men occupy their younger bodies, Jacob just looks his normal age. He occasionally blinks and fades out because his presence in ’86 threatens his own existence.
The boys pledge to repeat their steps from the past so as not to mess up the future with the butterfly effect. Unfortunately, they prove that history can’t repeat itself and start screwing things up royally.
The film works as a mega vulgar Back to the Future for the new millennium. Heck, it even has Crispin Glover (a.k.a. Future’s George McFly) in a recurring role as a bellhop employed by the ski resort in both time periods. There’s a wonderful, sick joke running throughout the film involving his character that I won’t ruin.
There’s an “anything goes,” insane exuberance that permeates this kooky cinematic endeavor, from its goofy plot to its sometimes disgusting sight gags. It’s another entrance into the recent run of great R-rated comedies that include the Judd Apatow films and The Hangover. Corddry and Robinson get a nice chance to shine in this film, and they succeed. They share a moment in a bathroom that should become the stuff of disgusting sight gag legend.
Continuing his unlikely resurgence, Chevy Chase shows up as a mystical hot tub repairman who seems to know that science fiction-type magic is at play but refuses to totally tip his hat. It’s good to see Chase in a movie that doesn’t have some stupid dog or “Vacation” in the title. Collette Wolfe, who was absolutely adorable as Seth Rogen’s secret admirer in Observe and Report, is an obnoxious howl as Adam’s sister and Jacob’s mom.
The mid to late ’80s were, of course, Cusack’s original playground for stardom with films like The Sure Thing and Better Off Dead (1985), One Crazy Summer (1986) and Say Anything … (1989). It’s my guess that director Steve Pink had the time of his life putting this one together. There’s an obvious love for the ’80s at play.
Hot Tub Time Machine isn’t the first movie to find an excuse for Cusack to visit ’86. The ingenious Grosse Pointe Blank saw his professional assassin visiting his ’86 high school reunion and killing somebody with a pen (a nice nod to Say Anything …). Hot Tub features some nice visual nods to Cusack’s Lloyd Dobler persona. Again, I’m not going to give them away. You’ll know it when you see it.
There have been various, persistent rumors of a Back to the Future remake. Never mind Universal Studios, because this is basically a partial remake with awesome dick jokes thrown in for good measure. It’s also a thinly veiled homage to the continuing and past brilliance that is Cusack. Long live Lloyd Dobler!