Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Snickering when wet

Hot Tub Time Machine packs all the fun its title promises

Posted on Wed, Mar 24, 2010 at 4:00 AM

****
Hot Tub Time Machine
Studio: MGM
Rated: R
Cast: John Cusack, Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson
Director: Steve Pink
WorkNameSort: Hot Tub Time Machine
Our Rating: 4.00

OK, let's make this clear from the top: Hot Tub Time Machine isn't anything that it doesn't sound like. It's not a Merchant Ivory production in hiding or a trenchant look at the war in Iraq. The plot's a nod to Back to the Future. Lines are lifted from Better Off Dead â?¦. Shots are borrowed from Sixteen Candles, and the villain is your typical Commie-hatin', Red Dawn-lovin' frat-tard. Who knows whether that derivative style matters to a target audience that was probably born around 1986, but the film covers its bases anyway with vomit gags and homophobia.

After Lou (Rob Corddry) is found revving his engine in a closed garage ' an honest mistake ' estranged pals Adam (John Cusack) and Nick (Craig Robinson) pack everything up, including Adam's shut-in nephew, Jacob (Clark Duke), and head to the ski resort of their glory days. Despite the resort's disrepair and general lack of ladies, the lot stumbles upon the eponymous device and they find themselves sent back to their last big hurrah, circa 1986. The problem is, while the guys appear as his teenage self, Jacob hasn't been born yet, so the gang has to stick around and make sure that he gets conceived right on schedule.

Thankfully, director Steve Pink (Accepted) and his three screenwriters get most of the scatological stuff (catheters, constipated canines) out of their system early on. Eventually, they tackle the inevitable culture shock with amusing exaggeration, allowing the rest of the film to coast on the chemistry of the ensemble and Pink's breakneck knack for the irreverent.

When not sending up his own '80s romps, Cusack gets to harbor much of the regret for a life gone to waste. Corddry's flagrant a-hole gets his ass re-kicked up and down the slopes, while Duke spits out snarky asides and Robinson deadpans pricelessly to the camera. Although they're more often paired off than grouped together, the guys' chemistry is what really keeps the number of chuckles elevated.

Not doing any harm in the wings are Crispin Glover, as a particularly fortunate doorman, and Chevy Chase as a hot-tub repairman so vaguely sage that he's actually kind of a dick (think Don Knotts in Pleasantville or Christopher Walken in Click).

Pink is smart enough to know exactly how silly it is and silly enough to pull off the film's dumber moments.

Hot Tub Time Machine will earn itself an expiration date with the Twitter references alone, but as far as blasts from the past go, it'll keep you laughing until that Red Dawn remake comes out.

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