I wasn’t sure what to expect with Hot Tub Time Machine. I wanted to enjoy myself a little. Instead, I’ve seen it twice and laughed from beginning to end both times. It contains one of the most incredible running gags I’ve seen in ages (thanks to Crispin Glover), and a knock out comedic performance by Rob Corddry (The Daily Show, Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay), who finds a place between angry and vulnerable, lovable and annoying – it’s brilliant, worthy of accolades. Thankfully, Hot Tub is very aware of it’s hook, but doesn’t live off that.The hook is, three 40-year-old(ish), once best friends, each in major slumps, go to Kodiak Valley, a ski resort from their youth to try and regain some of that panache, and bring along Cusack’s video game playing, internet swilling nephew, Clark Duke (Sex Drive and the soon to be released Kick Ass). But Kodiak Valley is as dead as they are, until a hot tub awakens some of that youthful zeal, literally and figuratively by shooting them into the past, 1986 to be exact. Their problems aren’t over, for now being in the past, they have to decide to do things as they did the first time and end up with their dreary lives or change their futures for the better, while at the same time learning to be best friends again.
Better Off Dead, One Crazy Summer, High Fidelity and Grosse Point Blank. Yes, those are pretty divergent films, and Hot Tub lands right in the middle. Starring John Cusack (from all four of those films), as an older version of his 80’s persona, and directed by the screenwriter of High Fidelity and Grosse Point, Steve Pink, who magically mixes 80’s fun with current broad comedy sensibilities, Hot Tub finds the perfect tone in which to exist; absurd with a layering of emotional intelligence. It gives us characters that have problems, and not just so there can be a “pay off” at the end (as with The Hangover, a film which tried to drag it’s hook out for 2 hours), but so the characters actually have reasons to go at each others throats. Real conflict = real laughs!
But wait, there are three friends and that third friend is the lovable, simply enjoying himself with a straight face, Craig Robinson (Daryl from The Office, Pineapple Express), who along with Cusack, Corddry, Duke, Pink, Glover and the rest of the cast is pitch perfect brilliant. I can imagine my parents saying, “It was so funny, but why did they have to have all that sexual humor.” If that’s not a reason to go see it, I don’t know what is.
This was the first movie in a long time I can remember stepping out of the theatre and saying “I’m going to buy that”. And along with How to Train Your Dragon is another wonderful surprise this year. Let’s hope they keep coming.
Whether the filmmakers meant it or not, this is a nice allegory for our current bummer of a society to remember what it’s like to loosen up and enjoy ourselves a little.
Tags: Better Off Dead, Chevy Chase, Clark Duke, Collette Wolfe, Craig Robinson, Crispin Glover, Grosse Point Blank, High Fidelity, Hot Tub Time Machine, John Cussack, Lizzy Caplan, Lyndsy Fonseca, One Crazy Summer, Rob Corddry, Steve Pink, The Hangover