When I sit down to write these musings, I normally start by writing the synopsis. It conjures up memories of favourite or unpleasant moments in the movie, opinions you had but then forgot and occasionally (very occasionally in my case) witty remarks to add a nice bit of comedy gloss to proceedings. This approach didnt really work with Hot Tub Time Machine because after half an hour of typing and deleting, I was left with the following sentence.
Theres this hot tub, right? And its a time machine.
Rubbish isnt it? I mean theres a little more to it than that, mid-life crisis issues, male bonding and a few other bits and bobs, but really, this, like Snakes on a Plane, is one of those movies that does exactly what it says on the tin.
Clearly owing a great deal to last years sleeper hit The Hangover, John Cusack, Craig Robinson, Clarke Duke and Rob Corddry play four everymen with a standard line-up of male life crisis (Cusack is recently divorced, Robinson is trapped in a job and marriage he hates etc) who in a desperate attempt to recapture their youth head to their old ski-resort stomping ground, and thanks to aforementioned quantum bubble-bath end up back in 1986 in the middle of the resorts biggest party.
As Ive already said, theres no way to dress this up as anything other than it is. Hot Tub Time Machine is a movie that does not ask challenging questions but instead invites its audience to revel in its very obvious silliness. The reason it does this in a far more successful way than Snakes on a Plane is that a) its far clearer that we are on a one-way trip to crazy-town and b) its very, very funny.
Make no mistake, this is a boys film. Drinking, fighting, sex, all of the male excesses get fair representation here. Like the Hangover, all of the larger female roles are woefully underdeveloped, mainly consisting of bimbos, bitches or idiots with even the token intelligent love interest being written in a fairly shallow way, her motives and reasons for being there never fully explained.
This singularly one-sided approach to gender relations would have been a disaster if there werent such an earnest chemistry between the four leads. The sense of tired but still strong friendship between the group carries great resonance for any man fortunate enough to have kept the same friends since adolescence. Cusack is superb, once again proving that his decision to steer his career away from films like this in the last ten years may have been a bad one. The real find here, however, is Rob Corddry, who is loud, brash and completely captivating.
Corddry in fact sums up everything appealing about the film. His portrayal of serial loser Lou is, on the face of it, disgusting, rude and totally unsophisticated, yet its carried off with such endearing aplomb and high standard of comedy that one cannot help but laugh along with the show. A combination of slick semi-improvised dialogue and well thought out set pieces combine to makes this a genuine comedy gem, albeit a slightly puerile one.
Hot Tub Time machine is a shallow, boozy comedy with aspirations no higher than your average drunken frat boy, but a combination of conviction in both writing and direction, as well as genuinely talented comedic performances, make for an enjoyable, sometimes laugh out loud hilarious couple of hours.
Overall Verdict: Rude, crude, shallow, sweaty and utterly juvenile, theres no way in hell this film should work. It does though, and you know what? Its a bloody good laugh.
Reviewer: Alex Hall