With such a ridiculous title, it would be unwise to go into Hot Tub Time Machine (2010) with the preconception that what you are about to see is anything but lavishly ludicrous. The plot fails to stretch far beyond the fact that four guys hop into a hot tub, only to find when they get out things don’t quite feel, or literally look right. Yet relatively unknown director Steve Pink not only whisks us away on a journey through time, but also through a long forgotten trail of regrets and failed opportunities.
Attempted suicide is not often used as a starting point for most films, let alone comedy, but that is exactly where Hot Tub begins. Upon receiving urgent phone calls from the local hospital, lifelong friends Adam (John Cusack) and Nick (Craig Robinson) rush to the bedside of their wild and reckless counterpart Lou (Rob Corrdry). With Lou drastically in need of cheering up and the threes’ friendship in need of a reboot, they decide to take a break to the mountain resort of their youth. With Adam’s nerdy nephew Jacob (Clark Duke) in tow and the dawning realisation that they no longer know each other quite as well as they used too, it seems that this attempt at male bonding is deemed to flop.
That is, until the four decide to take a dip in the garishly lit hot tub perched on the edge of their balcony. After Pink’s rapidly spinning camera disorientates us during their heavy drinking session into oblivion, they finally wake up to find that a few things seemed to have changed overnight – a few major things.
Call of Duty has switched to Pac-man, buzz cuts to perms, and, most horrifically, iPods to cassette players. What the four soon realise is they’ve somehow awoken to the eighties ski-resort wonderland of their youth, filled unmistakably with the sounds of Duran Duran and the glare of fluorescent legwarmers. With the situation way beyond any kind of plausibility, the question is, will the four ever be able to return home? Or, more pressingly, will they even want to?
There are genuine moments of raucous hilarity to be found in this film, mainly from the outrageous performance of Rob Corrdry. In typical Cusack style, Adam is a lovable ordinary guy just trying to get through a tough patch – although admittedly not as tough as the one he braves as Jackson Curtis in recent disaster movie 2012 (2009). Crispin Glover, no stranger to starring in time travelling roles having appeared in Back to the Future back in 1985, is creepily comic in the role of Phil, the chainsaw-wielding porter. However, the acting performances are somewhat limited by the script, the dialogue repetitive and lacklustre, the one-liners occasionally verging on cringe-worthy.
Whilst Hot Tub Time Machine is unlikely to be remembered in ten years’ time, its pure light-hearted fun with a time travelling twist – just take it with a pinch of salt.