By Jonathan Kiefer
Hot Tub Time Machine is a movie with the courage to ask, “Man, what happened to us?” and to answer, “Oh, that’s right: We came of age as acid-washed coke fiends during a time of Reaganomics, heavy pastels and Poison concerts—not to mention more than a few grody assembly line abominations at the multiplex.”
John Cusack, Rob Corddry and Craig Robinson play three early-midlife losers who, along with youngster nephew Clark Duke, are so desperate to recapture the magic of that momentous Winterfest ’86 weekend that they happen upon a cautionary chance to relive it. And so they do, making quite a stupid, funny go of it. In addition to Cusack, other period heroes playing along include surly one-armed bellhop Crispin Glover, whose life-altering mishap we’re encouraged giddily to anticipate; and cryptic repairman-necromancer Chevy Chase, whose fragmentary cosmic guidance deliberately grates.
The director is frequent Cusack collaborator Steve Pink, and the story credit belongs to Josh Heald, who shared screenwriting with Sean Anders and John Morris. This means that at some point Heald must have sat in a room with all those guys and said something like, “Dudes. Do you know what would be fucking awesome? A movie about a hot tub time machine! And do you know what would be even more fucking awesome? Setting it in the ’80s, with alumni of Caddyshack and Back to the Future and Better Off Dead. OK, so here’s what I was thinking…”
At that point, had I been in the room, I might have said, “Josh, let me stop you. I don’t even need to see your treatment. You had me at ‘hot tub time machine.’”
What I mean is, let’s take a moment to appreciate what we’re dealing with here. The science-fiction fantasy of multitasking recreational amenities is a delicate art. There’s no telling how many atomic hibachis and jukebox teleporters and karaoke machine cloaking devices Heald had to rough out and discard before coming up with the near-perfect conceptual elegance of Hot Tub Time Machine.
After that breakthrough, who really cares if the thing gets written by committee? Division of labor is a great way to get through the gag checklist anyway. You put one guy on bodily fluid duty, get somebody else administering the quota of boob flashes and ’80s movie references, and then just leave yourself open to jolts of inspiration.
What’s past is past and you have seen the future: as disposable as it is bankable.
Hot Tub Time Machine
Directed by Steve Pink
With John Cusack, Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson, Crispin Glover, Clark Duke and Chevy Chase
Dreamcatcher, Regal Stadium 14