1980s satire takes back seat to raunch in ‘Hot Tub’

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Thursday, March 25, 2010 3:08pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

With a title like this, how can it miss? Surely all of us have thought about the possibility of a “Hot Tub Time Machine” at one point or another in our lives.

Or not. I guess not, come to think of it. But it occurred to somebody and so we have the movie by that title.

What happens because of the hot tub time machine is that three old friends (and one nephew) are transported back to a fateful ski weekend in 1986.

In the present day, all three friends (John Cusack, Craig Robinson and Rob Corddry) are disappointed with their lives and going back in time will give them a fresh perspective on what went wrong.

We’re not sure at first how Cusack’s nephew (Clark Duke, the wisecracker from “Sex Drive”) fits into this, but before long his role becomes clear. The guys are let loose on a night of heavy drinking and misguided partying, during which they try not to induce the “butterfly effect” of altering something serious about their future.

This all makes the movie sound much more ambitious than it is. Put together some awful 1980s fashions, bad music and a cameo performance by Chevy Chase, mix in the kind of raunchy humor required to keep the attention of the target audience (Parents: You do NOT want to take your kids to this R-rated gross-fest, for the sake of your own embarrassment) and you’ve got the picture.

Cusack tries to introduce a handful of “real” moments, Corddry does the obnoxious bad-news buddy (was Jeremy Piven not available?) and Robinson employs a wicked deadpan look.

The movie builds a single decent running joke — it involves a one-armed bellhop, played by “Back to the Future” co-star and full-time weirdo Crispin Glover — but otherwise goes lurching from one slapstick gag to the next.

It’s no “Hangover,” when it comes to men behaving badly. And it’s far below the level of Cusack’s best comedies, even though one of his usual writing partners, Steve Pink, is the director.

Most surprisingly, “Hot Tub Time Machine” gets less mileage than you’d think from the 1980s stuff.

A “Where’s the Beef?” T-shirt and a poster for the movie “Red Dawn” just skim the surface, but the movie pushes past those to get to the next genitalia reference. That’s a 21st-century technique that almost makes you nostalgic for the 1980s — but not quite.

“Hot Tub Time Machine” (1 1/2 stars)

The hot tub time machine in question sends four guys back to 1986, where they relive a fateful night at a ski lodge. Despite the efforts of John Cusack, Craig Robinson and Rob Corddry, the gags don’t build enough, and the film spends more time on raunchy genitalia jokes than on ‘80s satire.

Rated: R for nudity, language, subject matter

Showing: Alderwood Mall, Cinebarre Mountlake Terrace, Everett, Galaxy Monroe, Marysvile, Stanwood, Meridian, Metro, Oak Tree, Woodinville, Cascade Mall

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