Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Hot Tub Time Machine

My review of Hot Tub Time Machine appears in WE this week.

HOT TUB TIME MACHINE: Eighties-era send-up starring John Cusack opens in theatres Friday, Mar. 26.


Starring John Cusack, Rob Corddry

Directed by Steve Pink

Hot Tub Time Machine pretty much plays its cards in its title, so if those four words don’t make you smile, just stay home. This is a comedy that laughs at itself, its stars, and everything ’80s, including Cold War paranoia, affirmative action, cocaine use, gay panic, and, of course, that decade’s Day-Glo parade of neon fashion travesties.

Half of the film’s winking brilliance is in the casting: ’80s poster boy John Cusack is Adam, a corporate schmuck who’s grown apart from his old buddies, Lou (Rob Corddry) and Nick (Craig Robinson), and whose mid-twenties computer-nerd nephew, Jacob (Clark Duke), lives in his basement. After an accident nearly claims Lou’s life, the four men embark on a weekend road-trip to revisit the ski-lodge hangout of the original trio’s youthful glory days.

Too bad it’s now a shuttered ghost town. The bellhop (an excellent Crispin Glover) is surly and one-armed, and the hot tub’s on the fritz. But then, suddenly, the hot tub’s bubbling invitingly, and the men jump in for some drunken, hilarious debauchery. They wake up and — bam!— it’s 1986. Oh, and Chevy Chase is the mystical, cryptic repairman who instructs the group to do exactly as they did the first time around, over two decades ago (even though Jacob wasn’t even alive then), so that they don’t alter the future and other time-travel mumbo jumbo. Of course, the older trio can’t resist trying to do things better the second time around, since their current lives are such messes.

The script, co-written by Josh Heald and Sean Anderson (She’s Out of My League, Sex Drive), offers a clever hijacking on the typical bromance genre of raunchy guy comedies, but it sags a few times under the weight of a handful of predictable moments. Luckily, these stumbles are offset by many awesome WTF scenes (such as an oft-referenced, never explained “Great White Buffalo” chant) and a cast seemingly game for anything. What might have turned out to be another tepid dip into bathroom and locker-room humour is instead one of the year’s funniest films so far. ★★★ —Andrea Warner

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