“Every young man’s fantasy is to have a three-way,” says Lou. Jacob replies, “Yeah, not with another fucking guy!” Lou responds, “It’s still a three-way!”
There was a comedy with an intriguing premise that came out a few years ago, became a sleeper hit, and is on its way to becoming a cult classic. It was the recent recipient of a terrible sequel that stretched the film’s concept much thinner than it should’ve (or needed to). While you might be thinking that I’m referring to 2010’s Machete, I’m actually referring to another film from 2010, Steve Pink’s Hot Tub Time Machine. I found the film’s trailer hilarious with a good amount of cheesiness (particularly when Craig Robinson delivers the line, “It must be some kind of… hot tub time machine” and then looks straight into the camera). I saw Hot Tub Time Machine when it came out five years ago, and it was a very enjoyable experience (it was funny, nostalgic, and the story was stronger than expected).
2010’s Hot Tub Time Machine centers on four adults in the present who visit an old ski lodge to get away from their troubles. After a weird night of drinking and partying in a hot tub, they awaken the next morning at the same place but in the year 1986 (with three of them in their younger bodies). As they try to figure out how to return to the present, they must also try to avoid changing the past in any significant way. Pink assembled a terrific ensemble that includes John Cusack (as Adam), Craig Robinson (as Nick), Rob Corddry (as Lou), Clark Duke (as Jacob), Lizzy Caplan (as April), Sebastian Stan (as Blaine), Collette Wolfe (as Kelly), Crispin Glover (as Phil), William Zabka (as Rick), and Chevy Chase (as the Hot Tub Repairman). Cusack, Robinson, Corddry, and Duke give strong performances and have great rapport, Stan is over-the-top as their Red Dawn-loving nemesis, and Caplan is a welcome presence as one of the film’s more dramatic elements (her scenes with Cusack are among my favorites in the film).
The screenplay by Josh Heald, Sean Anders, and John Morris balances the comedy and drama (Cusack’s story arc being the strongest one). My favorite running gag was Glover’s Phil, the ski lodge bellhop who starts off in the present with one arm but appears in 1986 with both arms (setting up a few comic situations where Phil may or may not lose one of his arms). One of the things I found most surprising was that the film’s MacGuffin was a Russian energy drink called Chernobly. The script also pokes fun at all things from the 1980s, basking in its nostalgia (the fashion, the movies, the celebrities, the music, etc.). Despite all of the gross-out humor, the story is ultimately about the strong bond between three friends (and one of their nephews) and how they are given a chance to redeem/redefine their lives.
Jack Green’s cinematography is first-rate, as is Bob Ziembicki’s production design. There was one major goof that really bothered me: the Rambo III poster in Blaine’s room (it should’ve been a Rambo: First Blood Part II poster since the film was set in 1986). Regardless, Dayna Pink did an excellent job with her costume design, particularly the period costumes for 1986. The editing by George Folsey Jr. and James Thomas builds momentum and keeps the film moving at a good pace. Hot Tub Time Machine is an enjoyable nostalgia trip filled with hilarious performances and is a definite future cult classic, so go ahead, grab a Chernobly, and enjoy!