Former best buds Adam (Cusack), Nick (Robinson) and Lou (Corddry) are reunited after Lous drunken antics are mistaken for a suicide attempt. To cheer themselves up they venture, along with Adams nephew Jacob (Duke), to the party town of their youth, b
The '80s weren't good for much, but they were great for ribald comedy — Porky’s, Revenge Of The Nerds, Bachelor Party and a plethora of other tales appeared in the time Before Internet, usually of misfit teenage males getting the better of their athletically superior nemeses and winning over the girls. Then, in the overly sensitive ’90s, the subgenre all but vanished, so if you’re too young to recognise these titles, download them (legally, please). If you still don’t understand though, Hot Tub Time Machine should do the trick.
Inroads to an R-rated comedy revival have been made recently, predominantly by Judd Apatow and The Hangover, but Hot Tub brings us full circle, deftly playing with its conceit: the lovable college misfits are now middle-aged. In this case, it’s depressed Adam (a well-cast John Cusack) and henpecked Nick (Craig Robinson), while ass of the group Lou (Rob Corddry) brings them all together when he winds up in A&E.
Everyone’s convinced it’s a cry for help, so they head for the place of their happiest memories, dragging along Adam’s basement-dwelling, technology-obsessed teenage nephew, Jacob (Clark Duke, wisely present as a compass for anyone born after ’86) along for the ride. The town and hotel they once partied hard in is now a dump though, and desperate to turn the evening into something special, they pile into the hot tub and drink irresponsibly, only to awaken on a date in 1986 that was crucial to all of them. What is the universe, and the strange, cryptically clichéd repairman (Chevy Chase) trying to tell them?
An outrageously high concept, to be sure, but it works beautifully up on screen, which you should almost expect given Cusack and director Steve Pink’s previous collaborations are Grosse Point Blank and High Fidelity — both penned by Pink. True to form, they’ve made sure Hot Tub’s story has heart while playing gleefully with its own impossibility, like a sweary Groundhog Day, or Click with tits, vomit and actual funny jokes — a whole lot of very funny jokes — all the way to the credits.
The big win, though, is the quartet’s terrific energy, which holds all of the script’s wildly disparate elements together. Robinson and Duke are terrific, and while it’s fantastic to see Cusack back doing all-out comedy, truly outstanding is Daily Show veteran Rob Corddry, who has to make horrible jerk Lou likable and funny. Kudos, too, for Crispin Glover’s cracking supporting role as a unidexter bellhop — a joke you can actually see coming from a quarter of a century away, and which is milked for all its worth, but manages to bring laughs every time.
Of course, they can’t all be winners, and every now and then a line misses the mark, while Chevy Chase doesn’t really get to show why he is a comedy icon of that time. It’s also, quite understandably, slanted towards a particular generation or two — if you’re too young to see the gag potential in an energy drink called Chernobyl carelessly left lying around, or thought you were too old to have seen one of Cusack’s own ’80s classics, Better Off Dead, on its original release, then you might miss a few gags — but Hot Tub miraculously manages to weather this without being exclusive; this is all-ages, all-generations lowbrow, and deserves to be damn proud of it.
It may centre on the decade of shame, but you dont have to have been of age in the 80s to get into the groove. The foursome of leads on electric form make this the best dumb fun of the year to date, and we cant wait for Hot Tub 2: Cincinnati Boogaloo..