Film Review: Hot Tub Time Machine

2010 – 99mn - 15

Directed by Steve Pink. Starring John Cusack, Craig Robinson, Rob Corddry, Lizzy Caplan, Crispin Glover and Chevy Chase.

Review by Walter Nichols

IF you ever wondered what kind of film would come out of mixing together the three great genres of the time travel movie, the bromantic comedy, and the 80s teen flick, wonder no more: Hot Tub Time Machine is here.

The disappointments of life have caught up with once-best friends Adam, Nick and Lou (John Cusack, Craig Robinson and Rob Corddry). Now middle-aged, they’ve slowly and imperceptibly drifted apart, stuck in lives they don’t want without quite knowing how they got them. When Lou ends up in hospital after getting drunk and locking himself in his garage with the car engine running (maybe accidentally, maybe not), the three friends, along with Adam’s teenage nephew Jacob, decide to take a weekend away to the ski resort of their youth, to recapture their adolescent spirit. They spend their first night partying in their suite’s hot tub, which turns out to be – you’ve got it – a hot tub time machine. Taken back to one fateful weekend in 1986, the friends have to decide whether they should go through it exactly as they did the first time, avoiding the proverbial “butterfly effect” and ensuring they make it back to the present safely – or make radically different choices, and chance a better future…

To get the important stuff out of the way: Hot Tub Time Machine is very, very funny. It might be an an unpretentious mishmash of stock plot conventions and Movie Time Travel rules, but it makes its way from familiar plot point to familiar plot point with originality and heart, and draws laughs everywhere it wants to. It’s gleefully self-aware, packed with pointed film references (everything from Sixteen Candles to Back to the Future by way of Rocky), and dotted throughout with shrewd 80s casting, Chevy Chase and Crispin Glover the prime examples. Every scene is designed to play with expectations, and everyone in the cast gamely joins in the fun. While Cusack is the only proper Famous Name here – and seeing him back in the genre is one of the film’s great pleasures – Hot Tub is a true, balanced ensemble piece. Although every now and then they too easily reach for the scatological punch line, it’s obvious the filmmakers have a lot of affection for all of their characters. As a result there are, hidden between the jokes, plenty of touching and truthful moments reflecting on the nature of friendship and the importance of second chances.

Star Rating: 4 out of 5 stars