Hot Tub Time Machine
I have actually complained about movies, comedies especially, that use their best lines in the previews. It’s a legitimate complaint, you paid the money, you want a little more bang for that buck than what everybody sees in the TV ads. But I’m sorry, even though I’d seen it a million times in all the spots and previews the past few weeks, when Craig Robinson looks at the camera and says, “It’s like some kind of…Hot Tub Time Machine,” I just lost it. Hilarity ensued. And it’s with those simple, expected laughs that HOT TUB TIME MACHINE excels, and rides that ridiculous premise to a genuinely funny buddy/time travel movie. And while I say “ridiculous premise,” I can’t imagine the concept meetings went too well at first when Universal wanted to make a movie about a time machine manufactured from a DeLorean. So let’s not throw stones.
HOT TUB TIME MACHINE starts with the depressing lives of our four protagonists, three of which are one-time best friends who’ve simply drifted apart. John Cusack plays Adam, a man bouncing from one ruined relationship to another. He is taking care of his young nephew, Jacob (Clark Duek, out of nowhere), who is a slave to his computer Sim game (a commentary on the current generation). Craig Robinson steals the whole movie as Nick Webber-Agnew, an ex-musician now working as a dog groomer (the place is called “’Sup Dawg” and Robinson must greet customers as such) who caters in all ways to his wife, to include adding her last name onto his. And Rob Corddry rounds out the cast as the uber-depressed, alcoholic, divorced train wreck that is Lou. After an “accidental” botched suicide attempt by Lou, the friends get back together to go skiing at Kodiak Valley, an old haunt for the guys that they think will cheer Lou up. The resort is a wreck, complete with a deranged, one-armed bellhop played by BACK TO THE FUTURE’s Crispin Glover, and the town is run down and miserable.
Luckily there’s the hot tub, leading the guys to wake up in 1986. They are tipped off by the fashions, the technology and clips of “ALF” on TV and an old clip of MTV from when they actually played music. Cusack plays the leader of the group, trying to make sure they don’t ruin anything in their pasts, while Craig Robinson reels and panics, Duke tries to find the way back, and Corddry just tries to party as much as he can but is still held to the same loser status he had before. As I said, hilarity ensues.
Cusack is funny in his initial depressed state, but also has a funny side story with an old girlfriend he breaks up with at the Winterfest ’86 and she reacts poorly. There are plenty of quick jokes you have to pay attention to catch, including an old line from Cusack’s ‘80s canon BETTER OFF DEAD, but also 80’s cameos throughout, to include Chevy Chase as the mystical hot tub repairman (a line I thought I’d never write) and William Zabka from KARATE KID (listen carefully for the “Get him a body bag” line). Craig Robinson is hilarious throughout and should get larger comedic roles based on the strength of his work here. He and Cusack sell their friendship well, to include inside jokes never explained: something involving Cincinnati and a whispered line about The Great White Buffalo. Crispin Glover has a great running gag as we await the loss of his arm, though I thought for sure they were going to have him deliver some of his lines from BTTF, and there was no reference to “Are you okay?” or “I’m your density,” delivered in that quintessential George McFly way. Clark Duke doesn’t do much, but he does have some funny lines and a mystery about the identity of his father due to his mother’s wine cooler-fueled promiscuity. But the majority of the big laugh lines are given to Rob Corddry, some of which fall flat out of his trying too hard, but others that really knock it out. Ridiculous concept, of course, but still a really funny movie. And that line by Craig Robinson will make me laugh no matter how many times I see it.