This movie is very up-front about how ridiculous it is, from the title on. It’s not trying to be the next Casablanca or Citizen Kane, but does a fine job of being what it sets out to be.
Adam (John Cusack), Nick (Craig Robinson), and Lou (Rob Corddry) are three former best friends who have drifted apart, their lives in one form of ruin or another. Adam has just broken up with his girlfriend, Nick is a flunky at a dog-car shop, and Lou’s harebrained schemes continually fail, leading him into suicidal behavior. Adam’s nephew Jacob (Clarke Duke) is very diligent and active… in his Second Life. This may not sound like a comedy, but then there’s a hot tub, so don’t worry.
After Lou’s botched suicide attempt, Adam and Nick are called to the hospital, re-uniting the estranged friends. They decide to return to Kodiak Valley, home of the ski resort which had been their old stomping grounds. The town is a pale shadow of its former self, but at the end of a night of drinking and brotherhood in a hot tub, they find themselves back in 1986, at Winterfest, a weekend that set each of the three men down their life paths and planted the seeds of their friendship’s dissolution. The three friends are back in their 1986 bodies, but the younger Jacob is his original self, though he starts to flicker when his parentage comes into question, Back To the Future-style.
There’s a lot of throwback humor, a great deal of crudeness and slapstick, but there’s also some strong notes about friendship, growing apart, life taking unexpected turns, and wanting to be able to change your own past.
The movie is especially targeted at men of the same age as Cusack, Corddry, and Robinson, and indulges in a great deal of mid-’80s nostalgia for its humor. Hot Tub Time Machine fits in fairly well with movies in the Judd Apatow school (Knocked Up, 40-Year Old Virgin, Get Him to the Greek, etc.) with the same kind of raunchy humor with sentimental underpinnings.
The unrated DVD includes the original theatrical cut as well as the Unrated cut, which, like most unrated cuts, includes a bit more nudity and some extended scenes. There’s not a notable narrative difference between the cuts, and the other deleted scenes included on the disc are nothing worth writing home about, with the exception of a reel of Corddry improvising about fifteen versions of a scene, each more disgusting than the last.
Some have called Hot Tube Time Machine funnier than The Hangover, but I’m not one of them. It’s an enjoyable film, with good comedic performances from the leads and some amusing ’80s nostalgia. The friendships between the characters and their attempts to figure out their lives are for me the most compelling part of the story, and at that it does succeed.
If you liked The Hangover, are a fan of any of the leads or enjoy the kind of humor associated with Apatow-style films, Hot Tub Time Machine may be for you. Plus, it has a brilliantly self-aware title. According to The Middleman, “Self-Knowledge is the gateway to freedom.”