A few years ago I wrote about the severe lack of quality John Cusack films over the last decade. Well, I never thought his cinematic redemption would come in the form of something titled HOT TUB TIME MACHINE - which is honestly the funniest comedy I’ve seen since BLACK DYNAMITE and ZOMBIELAND.
Sure, it’s a stupid concept – 4 guys go back in time to the 80’s via a hotel hot tub spiked by a Russian Red Bull beverage called Chernobyly - one that might look like it could be a sci-fi tinged WILD HOGS (which is name checked in the movie) men-will-be-boys comic nightmare of a movie, but it’s seriously a lot of fun.
John Cusack, Craig Robinson (The Office, PINEAPPLE EXPRESS), and Rob Corddry (The Daily Show) are old friends whose lives haven’t turned out the way they wanted. Cusack, in a role that has more than a little of Rob Gordon from HIGH FIDELITY in it, is a control freak insurance agent who has just been left by his live-in girlfriend, Robinson left his musical aspirations aside to work in a upscale pet store and fears his wife is cheating on him, and Corddry, a party boy gone to seed, just tried to commit suicide.
So along with Cusack’s video game obsessed nephew played by Clark Duke (the web series Clark and Michael) they travel to a ski resort they frequented back in the day to give their lives a kick-start, but much like them, the resort and the surrounding town has seen better days. In a great shout out to a much loved 80’s time travel classic (BACK TO THE FUTURE) Crispin Glover appears as a one armed bellhop with a very bad attitude.
Their crazy alcohol fueled first night results in them waking up back in 1986. “Is there some kind of retro thing going on this weekend?”
In fact just about everybody’s arc is predictable but it all still works. What makes it work is the easy going improv nature of the dialogue which I believe will make it one of the most quotable comedies ever. It’s literally overflowing with laughs. There are times that everybody’s yelling something and it’s all funny so you miss stuff when laughing. Supreme re-watch-ability is written all over it.
It’s easily Cusack’s best movie in 10 years (exactly 10 years – HIGH FIDELITY was released in late March of 2000) and it works as a homage to his 80’s work – among other familiar references, somebody yells: “I want my two dollars!” a nod to his 1985 film BETTER OFF DEAD. That’s another large part of its charm – it’s a riff on a John Cusack 80’s movie that is actually better than some actual John Cusack 80’s movies (sorry, was never a fan of BETTER OFF DEAD and ONE CRAZY SUMMER).
Cusack’s co-stars, Robinson, Corddry, and Duke all have plenty of highly amusing moments and good natural chemistry together. Chevy Chase isn’t really given anything funny to do, but his cryptic creepiness fits in succinctly. There’s a great running gag involving just when and how Glover will lose his arm, and how much the can't be contained party animal Corddry wants to see it happen, that stands out in all the over the top silliness.
It’s a gross out comedy, it’s a male bonding comedy, it’s an 80’s themed comedy with a kicking soundtrack (any soundtrack that can balance Mötley Crüe, The Talking Heads, Echo & The Bunnymen, Public Enemy, and The Replacements is fine by me), and it’s a rowdy sex comedy. It’s all of those things but what matters most is that it’s all a riot.
I know it looks and sounds stupid, and, yes, it is stupid. But this is a movie that is hilariously smart about its stupidity. And you should be too and go see it.