Tuesday 21 September 2010

Movie Review: Hot Tub Time Machine (2010)

A mid-life crisis comedy that takes itself as seriously as its title, Hot Tub Time Machine gets enough of the details right to be enjoyable.

A relatively straightforward mix of City Slickers and Back To The Future garnished with recent bromedy spicing, Hot Tub Time Machine follows friends Adam (John Cusack), Lou (Rob Corddry), Nick (Craig Robinson) and Adam's nephew Jacob (Clark Duke) as they tangle with a mystical hot tub and are transported back from 2010 to re-live one critical night at a ski resort in the 1986.

With Adam, Lou and Nick all facing mid-life crises, and Jacob clueless as to who his father is, their actions on this single night is an opportunity to change the destiny of their lives. Will they do exactly what they did back in 1986, or will they change critical decisions to alter the course of the rest of their lives? Throw in nuclear-powered beer and the possibility that with the wrong series of choices Jacob will cease to exist, and there is enough material here for some solid humour.

Hot Tub Time Machine does not need to veer too far from the stock mid-life crisis cliches: Adam is luckless in love and has just been dumped; Lou never grew up and is stuck as an adult in party mode, depressed to the point of attempted suicide; and Nick regrets having given up on a music career, and is shackled by a controlling wife who is also having an affair. The three men are at unhappy dead-ends in their lives, and, in various guises, we've seen these emotional cul-de-sacs before from City Slickers (1991) to The Hangover (2009).

But Hot Tub Time Machine benefits from engaging and energetic performances from Cusack (who also co-produced the movie), Corddry and Robinson, and does not shy away neither from a strong streak of raunchiness nor from a string of body-fluid jokes. There is also an excellent running gag about a porter at the ski resort who, in 2010, has one arm. He lost it during that fateful night in 1986; we just don't know exactly how or when.

Throw in Chevy Chase in an unhinged cameo as the hot tub repair man, and Hot Tub Time Machine gains entry as a member of that rare group of low-brow comedy films: the ones that actually exceed expectations.

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