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Hot Tub Time Machine (A Movie Review)

Updated: Jun 26, 2023

Hot Tub Time Machine


Starring John Cusack, Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson, Clark Duke, Crispin Glover, Lizzy Caplan, Chevy Chase, Sebastian Stan, Lyndsy Fonseca, Collette Wolfe, Charlie McDermott and Kellee Stewart.

Screenplay by Josh Heald, Sean Anders and John Morris.

Directed by Steve Pink.

Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.  93 minutes.  Rated R.

Anyone who would give a movie a ridiculous title like Hot Tub Time Machine must be: A) a complete and utter tone-deaf hack.  Or B) a savvy and ballsy storyteller with his tongue planted firmly in his cheek.

The pleasant surprise is that the makers of Hot Tub Time Machine are definitely in column B.

In its modest way, this may be the most surprisingly funny movie since The Hangover last summer – and for many of the same reasons.

This movie also takes an obvious and slightly creaky old premise and does interesting and different things with it.  Hot Tub is not quite as clever as that film – and it is more blatantly cheesy – however it’s got a whole hell of a lot more laughs than I expected going in to see the movie.

In fact, the low expectations I had may have led me to give the film more leeway than it deserves, but I have to say that while there is nothing particularly artistic or deep about Hot Tub Time Machine, it works just fine as a manic guy comedy.

It may not even totally take full advantage of its rich concept.  Three forty-ish losers go back to a resort where they had some of their greatest memories – bringing along a 20-year-old nephew – and during a booze-soaked dip in the title contraption find themselves transported back to 1986.

It turns out that they are back in their bodies during what they recall as the best weekend of their lives and they have to relive it all without changing anything for fear of messing up the future – only to realize that they were just as miserable back then as they are in the present.

The nephew is particularly conscious of the idea of not changing history, as he has not been born yet.

I should have known that the chances were good that this movie would be well-made, because it was produced by John Cusack and directed by his long-time cohort Steve Pink.  They had previously done the terrific Grosse Pointe Blank and High Fidelity together.  Of course, they had written those films and here Pink is just on board as director and Cusack as a producer and star – so you never know.

Plus, even though it is treating it as a joke, Hot Tub Time Machine has a near-foolproof plot device – time travel.  It is nearly impossible to make an uninteresting film about people having the ability to journey through the years – whether world history or personal.

The pleasant news is that despite the aggressively dumb title, this comedy works much better than anyone had any reason to believe.  Don’t be looking for Hot Tub Time Machine around awards season, but as so-stupid-it’s-smart guy comedies go, this one scores.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2010 All rights reserved. Posted: April 3, 2010.

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