If time travel were real, and it were possible to go back in time and change the future, I would return to the moment just before entering the theater for Hot Tub Time Machine and take myself out, Tonya Harding-style, because that would be more humane than sitting through the film. Another alternative would be to go back and stop writers Josh Heald, Sean Anders, and John Morris from scripting the damn thing in the first place.
As the title would suggest, Hot Tub Time Machine doesn’t take itself seriously. It’s a bawdy, male-bonding film that’s heavy on the gross-out factor, but light on humor. It longs to be The Hangover, but instead just reeks like the spilled beer and dried vomit the morning after the kegger.
The skeleton of a plot involves a trio of loser guys, each cruising toward a mid-life crisis; joined by a misfit nephew, they try to relive some of their glory days, but before you know it or can explain it, they’ve traveled back to 1986. Torn between wanting to amend for past mistakes and trying to preserve the future, they pretty much fail at both.
Admittedly I’m not a fan of bodily function humor, but director Steve Pink highlights the vomit, shit, and semen jokes to appeal to the more base humor of his audience. There’s a slightly entertaining amputee gag that carried through the film, but it’s so overdone I was ready to rip my own arm off. Otherwise, the jokes don’t really stand the test of time.
One might hold out hope that 80s film icon John Cusack would carry this film through the decades by turning on some of that Lloyd Dobler charisma from Say Anything, or Lane Meyer’s self-deprecating charm from Better Off Dead, but that wish will be dashed to pieces like the New Kids on the Block’s try for a comeback. As Adam, a dumpy bachelor, Cusack fails to channel any of the quirkiness that he mastered in the 80s. It’s like the little boy in him shriveled up and died.
Lou (former Daily Show correspondent Rob Corddry) is the group’s instigator, but he’s so brash, self-involved, and utterly unlikable that he actually may be better off dead. Corddry plays him so strung out that he’s little more than an annoyance that should be left behind. Even his moment of redemption is so overacted by Corddry that it’s ruined.
As the failed singer Nick, The Office’s Craig Robinson is the sole actor to eke a decent level of humor out of his part. While a cameo by Chevy Chase is completely wasted, Crispin Glover, who played George McFly in the first Back to the Future installment, is a fun addition, though more for what he represents than for his role or performance.
The only entertaining part of Hot Tub Time Machine is trying to catch all the 1980s references, ranging from Cusack’s own films to the Karate Kid. But, like that decade, the best thing to come out of this movie is the music, so you’re better off spending $10 on iTunes to download your favorite retro hits rather than buying a ticket to this no-hit wonder.