Friday 7 May 2010

Hot Tub Time Machine review

Hot Tub Time Machine (15, 99 mins)
Director: Steve Pink
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

It quite often turns out to be the case that movies with the most enticing, on the nose titles are writing cheques that those titles can’t cash. See Snakes on a Plane or Lesbian Vampire Killers for proof of films where those very titles actually end up being the best thing about them.

Hot Tub Time Machine just about manages to break the curse, even if its premise isn’t quite exploited to the full extent of its potential. The joke here, as the title very much suggests, is a hot tub that turns out to be a time machine, discovered by three forty-ish friends all unsatisfied and trapped in their lives. There’s Adam (John Cusack) whose girlfriend has just left him, Nick (Craig Robinson) a frustrated singer and Lou (Rob Corddry), an alcoholic who’s just had a half-hearted suicide attempt.

To help Lou recuperate they decide they need a break, and along with Adam’s nephew Jacob, head to a ski resort where they partied in their youth. It’s here they encounter the titular jacuzzi portal, and end up back in 1986 in a world of leggings, pastel and enormous hair. They can’t mess with the timeline and must make sure they redo the things they did back then in order not to change the future.

This leads to copious Back to the Future references, up to and including the casting of Crispin Glover as a one-armed bellboy, the subject of a nice running joke where everyone is desperate for him to lose the arm back in 1986.

Having one of the greats of 80s cinema like John Cusack in the lead is smart, and at first it seems a trick has been missed by not casting some other 80s stalwarts as his buddies. But then you realise Cusack doesn’t really get much to do and isn’t responsible for most of the funniest stuff, which actually comes from an unhinged Corddry, taking on a role similar to the one Zach Galifianakis had in The Hangover.

The best laughs tend to be small throwaway gags rather than any big set pieces and most of the humour mined is of the ‘weren’t the 80s primitive?’ variety, so jokes about mobile phones and the internet figure highly.

And yet it mistakenly thinks that constant vulgarity for the sake of it is funny, when a well placed bit of crudity could have been much more effective. But it’s best not to forget that this is a movie about a hot tub time machine and, on those terms, it offers chuckles enough to satisfy.

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