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Old 04-09-2010, 04:03 PM
Steve Pink's Hot Tub Time Machine

Here's the link to the published version of the review in my column at The Richmond Examiner:

Hot Tub Time Machine (2010)

What a fascinating title. It's the kind of title that heightened my anticipation based on it alone. Then the trailer came out and the anticipation dropped a few notches. It still had the potential to be funny, and to be fair, it does have its share of funny moments. I suppose how many depends entirely on the viewer.

The film starts by introducing us to its main characters: Adam (John Cusack), his nephew, Jacob (Clark Duke), and Adam's two friends, Nick (Craig Robinson) and Lou (Rob Corddry). Adam is having a tough time with his current relationship when he hears that Lou has possibly tried to commit suicide, though Lou denies this and says it was an accident. Adam's solution is for all four of them to go to the ski lodge that he and his friends frequented when they were young.

However, when they arrive, they find that the local town has become somewhat rundown with many of the stores closed down. They end up staying in the same room at the lodge that they did back then and find that it even has a hot tub. After a wild night of drinking and soaking in the tub, they wake up to find themselves back in 1986. Everyone sees them as they did back then (even when they look in a mirror, they too can see their younger selves). They soon discover that the hot tub is broken when a strange repairman (Chevy Chase) shows up and seems to know what's going on. Not wanting to change the past, they determine that it is best to do exactly what they did back then, but, of course, this doesn't go according to plan.

You can imagine the kind of jokes that would fill up a movie with such a premise. If you think you'll be able to laugh over and over at 80s references, then you'll probably find yourself enjoying it quite a bit, for this is what makes up most of the jokes in the film. At least they try to get most of the references out of the way early by emphasizing the clothes, bands, and other cultural items of the time. Many of the other jokes are merely raunchy sexual ones.

Despite its obsession with the one-note joke, it isn't a bad film. One of the more amusing parts of it involves a bellboy (Crispin Glover) that the main characters meet when they first arrive at the lodge in present day. The bellboy only has one arm so it's obviously a little difficult for him to get their luggage to the room. When Adam and company go back in time, the bellboy is still at the hotel, but he has both arms.

This sets up a running gag in which Lou waits for the moment when the bellboy will lose his arm. There are several close calls such as when he witnesses the bellboy making ice sculptures and flipping a chainsaw in the air, or when he sees him get his arm caught in an elevator door as it proceeds to go up and down, nearly taking his arm off both times.

It begins to channel "Back to the Future" as the characters interact with their families and people they knew before. They don't want to change the future, but some of these interactions are just unavoidable. It gets a little interesting as Adam realizes that he must break up with a girl that he originally broke up with at this time, but finds that he doesn't really want to.

So now, he can either choose to go forward with not wanting to alter the future and dump her, or he can see where the relationship will go and possibly change his life. It's understandable if he wants to do so as he himself claims to be a nobody and is going through a rough path in his life at the moment, but can he really change what is supposed to be?

When the film was over, I found myself rather indifferent towards it. I didn't hate it, but didn't really enjoy it that much either, nor were there that many spots where I laughed, or even chuckled. Again, if you think you'll be able to laugh at the same types of jokes over and over (the "Hey! That's from the 80s!" or the "People in the 80s don't understand it because it's from the future" type), then you might enjoy it. If the filmmakers had thrown in some variety, it might have worked, because I'm sure they were going for more than just a feeling of indifference. 2.5/4 stars.
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