by NIR SHALEV
In 2009, The Hangover reigned as the best mainstream, adult comedy of the year. Its premise of four men that venture into Las Vegas in order to enjoy a bachelor party and then can’t remember the magical night because they drank roofies worked because they spend the following two days backtracking to figure out why their hotel room has a tiger in the bathroom, a baby in the closet, and most importantly, why the groom is missing. The premise was plausible and the actors had a lot of fun and the movie was just darn hilarious. But believe me, it’s not as smart a film as Hot Tub Time Machine.
Hot Tub Time Machine is essentially an “R” rated Back to the Future and that’s precisely why it works well.
Lou (Rob Corddry) attempts carbon monoxide suicide in his garage and fails. Upon recovery, two of his best friends from high school, Adam (John Cusack) and Nick (Craig Robinson) visit him in the hospital. Having been strangers for over two decades, they decide to treat him to a weekend at their favorite ski lodge. None of them had been there since they were in high school, but they immediately notice how much the place had decayed. The town itself is inhabited by bums, the lodge is made of rotted wood and some of the current employees were working there since the mid 1980s. Nostalgia, for the guys is hard to achieve. Also accompanying the three men is Adam’s nephew Jacob (Clark Duke); Lou hates his guts and believes he’ll slow the crew down.
The guys get into their room’s hot tub, mysteriously still in service, and after drinking ridiculous amounts of alcohol, inexplicably end up back in the year 1986. They notice the time warp due to Jerry Curls, leg warmers, and other sequences shown in the trailers to the film but soon after the film wisely leaves the 1980s jokes behind. The guys realize that they exist once again in a time period that they’re familiar with, but find it hard to remember exactly what they did that weekend. This is a problem because they understand that they need to repeat every single action.
Like in most popular time traveling paradox stories, in this film the crew needs to repeat the past in order to keep the future intact – as is. They manage to remember that Adam must break up with his girlfriend and take a fork to the eye, Lou needs to be beaten terribly by the lodge’s ski patrol- twice, Nick needs to procreate with a busty blond woman in another hot tub, and Jacob reminds everyone that they need to do their jobs effectively so that he could simply exist. Why the script is smart is because Adam falls in love with the girlfriend he must break up with; Lou, the biggest jerk in the universe mysteriously follows suit; and Nick believes that he’ll be cheating on his wife even though in 1986 she’s only nine years old. The guys eventually notice that their “future” lives aren’t anything special, if not actually depressing and begin to wonder what would really happen if they were to change the past in order to refit the future to their liking. It’s rather neat to see these morons think so intellectually.
The performances are all convincing. John Cusack is always good and his performance here is no exception, Craig Robinson is amazing and is the current master of the deadpan, and Rob Corddry owns the whole show. He’s the butt end of the joke, the most crass and vile of the bunch, and yet manages to portray the character like a human being that isn’t annoying. Wounded is more like it. He’s the most wounded.
Lou constantly reminds the other guys that they’d abandoned him several times, that they are the reason behind why he is the way that he is. They did not remain as a group and that they should have always stuck together. But he was vile even back then so even the character development in the film is paradoxical and again, why I give credit where it’s due: to the writers.
This is the crudest comedy I’d seen since Superbad (2007); The Hangover’s got nothing on this. It’s crude in dialogue and content but is never condescending to the audience. This is a 90 minute comedy which the filmmakers promise to not release an extended cut of. “This is not an Apatow production,” they say, “It’s not a two and a half hour character study” and they’re right. This is a 90 minute character study, strewn into a time traveling paradox movie with loads of laughs and is smarter than the title suggests.
My favorite parts concern a certain bellboy, played by Back to the Future’s Crispin Glover, who is missing his right arm in the present, but in the past is not. Throughout the film the guys try to guess exactly how and when he’ll lose his right arm and it only gets funnier each time. The jokes never get old and just thinking about them makes me want to see the film again, and soon.
3 1/2 stars
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