Peter Eramo Reviews: “Hot Tub Time Machine”

Three middle-aged guys, all of whom are frustrated with their own lives — and a young nephew — travel back in time (via a magical hot tub) to their heyday year of 1986, a time when the three had their whole lives ahead of them. The premise of Steve Pink’s comedy says it all here and you know what you’re going to get going in. If you are looking for just laughs alone, this film should do it as there are some funny moments here. I would also say that those over the age of 35 and/or those who experienced the 1980’s as a teen would appreciate this film a lot more. On that note, there is a great sense of nostalgia here and plenty of 80’s references sprinkled throughout that will take you back, if just for a little while.

The four men go to a ski resort for some male bonding (and to cheer up one of them up who has been severely depressed). The resort is nothing like they remember it back in their prime — antiquated, filled with old people, near-deserted, with nothing going on. That is, until they all decide to, you know, do the manly thing — and all get in the hot tub together, sans clothing.

Our trio here is John Cusack (the ringleader experiencing a mid-life crisis), Craig Robinson (the married one who still dreams of a life he once gave up on), and Rob Corddry (the vulgar, crude, party animal). It seems with the advent of Apatow comedies (perhaps dating back to the Farrelly Brothers as well) and with the tremendous success of “The Hangover,” most comedies being released need to be over-the-top when it comes to the level of  raunchiness, perversity and sex-themed humor. That’s fine. I’m no prude. But it does sometimes get a bit predictable and really, at this point, what curse word or sight gag is really going to shock us at this point?

Corddry does his best at playing that one friend you see in all of these comedies — the one who will say and do anything, the one with no inner editing device…the asshole who, as Robinson and Cusack refer to as, “their asshole.” Robinson, by the way, is funny, as always. He’s got terrific comedic timing and a wonderful, unique delivery. And John Cusack looks like he’s having a great time, which is fun to see. He’s always a pleasure to watch, despite some of the poor choices he has made in recent years. Clark Duke plays the young, sarcastic, glued-to-my video games nephew and he is fine here in the familiar role.

Overall, though I thought it was funny and I had a good time watching it, I felt it could have gone much further with the time-travel and 1980’s themes. It seemed to touch the surface, but didn’t dig deep enough. The Chevy Chase scenes were somewhat odd and his ominous character felt out of place (though it’s nice to see him getting some work). The subplot between Cusack and Lizzy Caplan was also thrown away. It was great to see Crispin Glover here in a supporting role, but the pay-off on that subplot was not as grand as it could have been. Finally, the ending seemed to be too neatly tied together and yes, rather conventional. Again, I am aware that this was not supposed to enlighten or move me in any profound way. It is a raunchy comedy, and for that, I enjoyed myself. And, as I am in my late thirties, I can honestly say that walking out of the film, it did move me in certain ways; taking me back to 24 years ago and realizing just how quickly it all went by. So there…

Director:  Steve Pink
Year:        2010


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