'Hot Tub Time Machine': A blast of laughs from the past
John Cusack and his buds travel back to 1986 to find politically incorrect jokes and nonstop humor.
BEHIND THE TIMES: Clark Duke, left, Rob Corddry, Collette Wolfe, John Cusack and Craig Robinson. (Rob McEwan / Associated Press / MGM)
For anyone who has, or hasn't but wished they had, there is "Hot Tub Time Machine," which starts with four -- Adam, Lou, Nick and Jacob -- or for the literal-minded among you, John Cusack, Rob Corddry and Craig Robinson as old friends, and Clark Duke as Adam's nerdy nephew.
But frankly, a literal mind is not something that should be brought anywhere near this raunchy party. So if everyone will just check theirs at the door, "Hot Tub Time Machine" will in turn deliver nonstop political incorrectness; completely illogical special effects; a story line that at times makes absolutely no sense; Crispin Glover in one running sight gag that gets better instead of old; a crush of very cool '80s references, Cusack chief among them; some gross-out moments that are genius, at least in the competitive world of R ratings. Oh, and about a billion laughs (though "Hot Tub" is not for the faint of heart or anyone even slightly concerned with what's happened to common decency these days).
For our intrepid friends, the journey begins at a point in middle age when Adam and Nick are already depressed with the way their lives turned out. Then a really bad bender lands Lou in the hospital. And what better way to cure a killer hangover or those fortysomething blues than a drunken weekend at the Kodiak Valley ski lodge, where the guys spent some debauched days back in the '80s. Even with the nephew in tow, maybe, just maybe they can recapture the magic feeling.
Hey, maybe they can. And faster than you can hand a beer to a stranger in a bear suit who just stepped into the hot tub that came with the hotel room at no extra charge, the group is spinning their way back in time . . . (if I could make strange wooshing sounds here, I would) . . . all the way back to Kodiac Valley's Winterfest '86, where the Lycra is neon bright, the booze is flowing and all rules are abandoned.
The very solid filmmaking team behind this very naughty nonsense starts with director Steve Pink, who has collaborated with Cusack on some of the actor's driest comedies, including 1997's "Grosse Pointe Blank," a sly farce about a hit man, a high school reunion and an old flame. The story belongs to Josh Heald, who shares screenwriting credit with Sean Anders and John Morris, fresh off the not quite as raunchy "She's Out of My League." Though they will try one's patience, the writers should probably be forgiven for dropping what may be a record number of F-bombs, for coming up with lines like . . . oh, sorry, we can't print that here.
Time travel movies are always reflecting on the "might have beens" in life and examining deep philosophical issues like "would you, or should you, change the future if you could?" That is the hot water the film spends most of its time in -- a sort of over-heated alternative universe where a funny-again Chevy Chase shows up as the hot tub repair man, the band Poison is all the rage and the '80s kitsch is outstanding. The special effects, meanwhile, are a case of so bad they're good. Suffice it to say the filmmakers did not go the James Cameron route.
But a hot tub experience is only as good as its occupants. Corddry, who got his snarky start on "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" and has since made the slightly insane guy something of a specialty (see "Old School" or "Blades of Glory"), reaches a new high here, and not just because of the coke and weed lying around. Robinson brings the humor he has honed as Dunder-Mifflin's blue-collar sarcastic sage at "The Office," and, speaking of which, Duke could be Rainn Wilson's weird younger brother, he has the same off-center charm.
As for Cusack, he's just cruising through the comedy here, gliding around every curve, slipping past every pothole, like he's been steering this car for years. Man, it's good to have "Say Anything's" Lloyd Dobler back again.