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Prepare yourself, dear reader, for I am about to make a bold declaration that will either inflate or obliterate my prestigious position as a famed film critic: John Cusack’s throwback ’80s flick is the best time-traveling hot tub film ever created. Did I just blow your mind? Coyness aside, Hot Tub Time Machine is a supremely entertaining comedy, brimming with laughs and raunch all cemented with ample ’80s nostalgia.
Director Steve Pink is no stranger to creating successful comedies, nor is he a Cusack virgin, having written the screenplays for both classics Grosse Point Blank and High Fidelity. He also helmed the criminally underrated 2006 comedy Accepted and with a resume like that, the fact that “Hot Tub” transcends its high-concept title should really come as no surprise. There are some unnecessary visual gags and gross-out humour but the strength is in the writing and how the four leads skilfully execute that script. This is the perfect drunken Friday night movie and the kind that will only grow in cult status as time progresses.
Cusack play a single, unhappy man; Craig Robinson play a married, unhappy man; Rob Corddry plays a divorced, unhappy man and rising young rising star Clark Duke plays a nerdy, unhappy young man. For the exception of Duke’s character that has never really lived, so to speak, the trio of former childhood friends have not seen their lives progress as they once dreamed. After Corddry’s Lou attempts suicide, they all travel to their former haven in the mountains where they encounter — what else — a time-travelling hot tub. Whipped back to that very spot in the winter of 1986, they must choose between changing what has gone wrong in their respective pasts and facing the ramifications of altering their futures.
There are ample accolades that can be given to the cast of Hot Tub Time Machine and each character brings something different to the proceedings. Cusack is the wry straight-man and recaptures much of the essence he possessed in the ’80s. Robinson, who has been hilarious in essentially everything he has done, gets considerable laughs and a memorable singing number. Duke, who is gaining momentum, nerds himself through the story to delightful results. Finishing off with the main players, Rob Corddry gives the best performance of his budding Hollywood career. He drops many of the annoying mannerisms he exhibited in earlier films and succeeds in creating a far more endearing presence, even though much of the raunch flows through him (or out of him in some cases). The best running gag is tied to Crispin Glover as an armless bellhop.
For some reason, this film is drawing comparisons to The Hangover ad nauseum. Not only are the similarities limited to their R rating and the target demographic, but also Hot Tub Time Machine is far better in most every way. Along with last year’s smash, if this film is merely a rung in a growing ladder of quality R-rated flicks, then there will be no need for time travel — we need only look to the future.
Hot Tub Time Machine
Directed by Steve Pink
Written by Josh Heald, Sean Anders
Starring: John Cusack, Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson, Clark Duke