Color me pleasantly surprised.
I went into this movie expecting to hate it. HATE it. Instead what I got was an above average, slightly self-aware buddy comedy that will remind some viewers of "The Hangover" (or, in my case, the trailer for "The Hangover").
Make no mistake, this isn't some high comedy revelation; it's still chock full of gross-out gags, gratuitous T&A, and language as though the actors were getting paid for each swear. Still, for a movie called "Hot Tub Time Machine," it wasn't half bad.
The movie stars three friends, Lou (Rob Corddry from "The Daily Show"), Nick (Craig Robinson from "The Office"), and Adam (John Cusack …just, John Cusack) at various states of discontent in their lives (par for the course, in a comedy like this).
Left to right: Robinson, Duke, Corddry, Cusack. "Do I have to be the a@#$&*% who says that we went back in time?"
One night, Lou gets drunk and runs his car in his garage while jamming out to Mötley Crüe. He assures Adam and Nick that it wasn't a suicide attempt, but just to be on the safe side, they take him (and Adam's nephew Jacob, played by Clark Duke) back to their old glory grounds: Kodiak Valley, a ski resort that makes Mardi Gras look like Ash Wednesday, if you get what I'm saying.
Only the place isn't so hot anymore; it's broken down, full of cats, and they're waited on by Phil (Crispin Glover, who provides one of the film's best running gags), the one-armed baggage man who kicks, stomps, and scoots their bags to their room, then sticks out his only hand for a tip.
They then, of course, discover the titular Hot Tub and get transported back to the 80's, which touches off the rest of the movie and about every series of time travel setups you can think of. The only thing missing is an appearance from Mr. Peabody and Sherman.
What I'm failing to capture is the slightly whimsical and totally farcical tone of this movie. Everything happens at a pretty quick pace, and the movie is actually fairly witty in spite of its occasional foray into stereotypical "college humor" territory.
In "The Time Machine," it was a recliner. In "Back to the Future," it's a DeLorean. In "Hot Tub Time Machine," it's a jacuzzi. I'm waiting for a movie about the time traveling cardboard box from Calvin And Hobbes.
This movie had a lot of great little touches, such as how the characters sometimes take a second to chime in on each others' garbled wording or meaning screw-ups ("In what part of the a------ handbook does it talk about abandoning your friends?!" "Actually, I'm pretty sure that part'd probably be in the a------ handbook." "Alright, my bad, point taken.").
I also liked how one of the characters uses "The Terminator" to explain how they've travelled back in time, and how the main "villain" is obsessed with the movie "Red Dawn."
This movie goes out of its way to evoke 80's nostalgia. The soundtrack brims with 80's tunes like Poison and Public Enemy, and the movie has an off-kilter unforced vibe to it. And that's BEFORE the main characters get thrown back in time.
The movie is can be pretty dumb, but it knows when to hang back and make fun of itself (unlike of most "college comedies" that come out every couple of weeks, which are excessive to the point of reproach), and for that reason (and the fact it does have some pretty good gags) I'm recommending it. This'll teach me to judge a book by its cover, though if you see the name "Hot Tub Time Machine" and think it totally sounds like your bag, feel free to judge away.