Hot Tub Time Machine

Posted on June 29, 2010 at 8:00 am

I can understand why John Cusack, producer and star of this movie, would like to find a time machine to take him back to 1986. That was the last time he was making popular movies.
With the most explanatory title since “Snakes on a Plane,” we know where this is going, literally. Four shlubs, unhappy with their lives, go for a ski weekend at a place where the three middle-aged friends used to live it up. The fourth member is a shlub from the next generation who has never had a chance to live it up. At the resort, they go into a hot tub and faster than you can say Spandau Ballet, they are back in 1986. Three of them have a chance to correct their mistakes and the fourth has a chance to find out something about where he came from that will surprise no one. Within the first ten minutes we see a bong, a character throwing dog poop in someone’s face, and a suicide attempt. Party on!
Can you guess what happens next? Will there be jokes about cheesy 80’s trends? Someone is wearing a “Miami Vice” t-shirt. Will there be jokes about things people in the 80’s didn’t know were coming? Someone from the 80’s asks cluelessly, “What is email?” Will men who never figured out how to be grown-ups go back to being kids and learn that they didn’t know how to do that, either? Will there be appearances by performers from the 80’s intended to make us feel nostalgic but in reality just reminding us of how old they are now? Watch for Chevy Chase and, reminding us in addition about how much worse this is than “Back to the Future,” Crispin Glover. And then, just to throw everything possible into the mix, let’s add some raunchy humor with a lot of cheerful sexism and homophobia. Its slacker vibe matches its era, but it’s not unpretentious; it’s just lazy.
It tries hard to be outrageous, but more often it’s dull. Once again, and I’m just going to have to keep saying this until they get the message, referring to something is not the same as making a joke about it. And, for the record, let me add that jokes about and the appearance of bodily fluids are not inherently funny, either. On the other hand, if you disagree, you will love this movie.
The few bright spots include the always-welcome Craig Robinson and the on-the-brink-of-breaking-through Lizzy Caplan, still just one great part away from the big time. The un-bright spots include pretty much everything else.

Parents should know that this movie has NC-17-level sexual humor including extremely explicit references and situations, graphic humor with various bodily functions and fluids, very explicit sexual situations with female nudity, drinking, frequent and varied drug use, constant very crude and strong language, comic violence (some graphic), and characters in who are in peril and injured.
Family discussion: If you could go back in time, what would you change?
If you like this, try: “Knocked Up” and “The Hangover”

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Comedy Comic book/Comic Strip/Graphic Novel

27 Replies to “Hot Tub Time Machine”

  1. I know you were trying to be clever with the bit about John Cusack not making a good film since 1986 but I think you forgot about Being John Malkovich and High Fidelity, both of which were made in 1999 and 2000 respectively.

  2. Ummm.. hello? What about the movies 2012 (released in 2009), Martian Child (released in 2007), 1408 (released in 2007), Must Love Dogs (released in 2005) or Identity (released in 2003)?

  3. Ummm, I don’t consider any of those movies to be anywhere near as good or as successful as his earlier films. But glad to hear from a fan, Bryan!

  4. Well said. The film wasn’t as torturous as its trailer hinted at, but the film clearly doesn’t take advantage of its fun premise.
    Why drag Chevy Chase into this and not give him one funny line (and why couldn’t Chase ad-lib one in??)
    The attempts at making us care about the characters never work … The Hangover did a much better job making the four guys into real people.

  5. Thanks, Christian! Failure to take advantage is just the right way to put it. I hate it when “comedies” think that mentioning something is enough to carry the joke. People who laugh will not realize that it is their own memories — and their appreciation of themselves as in on the trivia — that they are laughing at, not the movie.
    The great achievement of “The Hangover” was in simultaneously giving us the vicarious thrill of their wild night within the context of the misery of the next day. And yes, the characters were real people, too.

  6. Grosse Pointe Blank and High Fidelity? Actually GPB was a much funnier movie dealing with returning to your high school days (albiet, not in a time machine). Sounds like one to skip. Too bad, as others have pointed out, the 80s have plenty to laugh about (I was there). The Wedding Singer actually does a pretty good job with this.

  7. Thanks, Anne — yes, Wedding Singer does the 80’s with more relish and good humor and Billy Idol is a better 80’s icon to repurpose than Chevy Chase.

  8. So this is not safe to take my kids to see? Nudity? R language? Someone please elaborate?

  9. JJ, as I said in the review, it is filled with non-stop very raunchy and gross-out humor with constant very strong and explicit language, and sexual situations and female nudity, drug use, and lots of humor about bodily functions and fluids. If there is any material parents would consider inappropriate for kids, it is in this film. If you need any more details, let me know.

  10. I thought Hot Tub Time Machine was the worst movie I have seen in a long time! It was so obnoxious with crude and stupid so-called jokes, I would never take my kids to see it. It was terrible, and I felt embarrassed for John Cusack. This was a very poor attempt at a comedy. I am mad at myself for wasting my money on it. I think I heard two laughs from other people during the whole movie.

  11. Do not take children to this movie.
    Some of the imappropriate scenes.
    There is “doggy style” sex shown where you can see the woman’s face, she’s on her hands and knees on a bed and the actor humping and a blanket covering.
    Actor having sex in a hot tub, Breasts are visible.
    A bet takes place that if actor wins, he gets a “blow job” from someone’s wife if he loses he has to give a blow job to his male friend.
    Jokes are made about the size of a black actor’s penis.
    A scene starts with what appears to be semen all over an actors face
    Another scene is where a woman wants to have sex with a man and a boy.
    Drugs and alcohol are drank without much affect to the participants.

  12. Well, thanks, Billy S, for your thoughtful assessment. Your criterion for evaluating the value of a movie is its own best rebuttal, so there’s nothing I need to add.

  13. Hi, Nell.
    I read your reviews every week and I don’t even live in America!
    I’m a bit curious why you say this film is for adults only. Here in the UK the rating is “15”, whereas the rating for a lot of the violent horror or action movies is 18. I think America is a bit more liberal on violence than we are, and a bit more conservative on sex.
    My guess is that the average teenager will be OK with this movie, but the parents of the average teenager probably wouldn’t be!

  14. Thanks so much, John E! It’s great to hear from you and I hope you will comment often and let me know what you think of the movies you see. I think you are right that Americans in general are more concerned with the sexual material than the violence in films and Europeans are the opposite, though of course both places include people with a wide range of views. I try to give all potential audience members the information they need so they can decide what is right for them. This film has both sexual material and violence (though comic) that is so explicit that I recommend it for adults only. And I agree with your last sentence, if we’re talking about older teens — and their parents.

  15. ha, i enjoyed your comments..Havent seen the flick yet but im looking forward to it..Probably the best film title ever 🙂

  16. This movie was hysterical… take it for what it is. The plot is about a time machine that is a hot tub. This movie is not intended to stir discussions about brilliant film making amongst intellectuals from Ivy League schools. Its a film with sophomoric humor centered around crude situations making jokes about crude subjects. Since that was its target; this movie lived up to what it was intended to accomplish.
    If you go into this movie expecting an academy award product; you’re going to be disappointed. If you want good one-liners and immature humor — bingo!
    I agree with another commenter; I didn’t care for the Chevy Chase part… it reminded me of Don Knotts appearance in Pleasantville; but Don Knotts part was much better. Give Chevy some good lines or at least let him fall down.
    “Did you eat pineapple yesterday”

  17. Thanks, John! I’m glad you enjoyed the film. I don’t mind crude humor, but for me this was crude without the humor. I’m always glad to hear from someone who sees more in a movie than I did, though!

  18. John’s made some great movies: Being John Malkovich, Identity, 1408, Runaway Jury, but he acted in some horrible films, too: War Inc? Must Love Dogs? The Contract? Oh, 2012! The writer, then, makes a pretty solid point that in 1986 before Say Anything, Cusack was living it a couple years after Sixteen Candles. Although Cusack is still famous, his movies are hit and miss today.

  19. Thanks, Silas. I’m glad to hear a good word for “Identity,” which I liked. But “Must Love Dogs” and “2012” and this one? Big disappointments. I was exaggerating to make a point — “High Fidelity” and “Being John Malkovich” are two of my favorites. And I still hope for better things from him.

  20. This movie was hilarious! It was not intended to be deep entertainment…and its a “guy flick”, not a “chick flick”…one more thing, you Mom’s are WAY over-protective….are you all familiar with the “forbidden fruit” theory?…a good example of that is when the drinking age was RAISED to 21, alcohol abuse is worse then ever….in Europe the drinking age is overall like 16 on average….its not a big deal because drinking is not a big deal…and the kids don’t think its anything “special”…

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