Hot Tub Time Machine

Hot Tub Time Machine

***

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Filmmakers simply can't get enough of Eighties nostalgia at the moment - and with Back To The Future clocking up its quarter of a century mark this year perhaps it's not surprising that writers and directors who remember films such as that from their formative years are sending them the movie equivalent of a love letter.

Hot Tub Time Machine attempts to evoke the spirit of the DeLorean with its tale of whizzing back through the decades, while the hot tub itself is filled with the broad frat boy humour of the period epitomised by the National Lampoon output. Cementing the deal is a substantial cameo by Chevy Chase, who, one suspects, may well have some sort of time machine himself, so little does age seem to wither him.


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The action begins in the present, with three adults finding themselves in the usual sort of dead-end lives that tend to dog grown-ups in movies like this. Adam (John Cusack) has just been ditched by his latest squeeze, finding himself with just his geeky nephew Jacob (Clarke Duke) for comfort. His old friend Nick (Craig Robinson) has got problems on the home-front, too, while the third of his best buddies from high school, Lou (Rob Cordrry) has become little more than a blind drunk. When Lou accidentally - or possibly deliberately - takes himself to the brink of suicide after another heavy night, his old pals rally round and decide they have to do something. Something, in this case, means attempting to scrape the rust off their friendship by oiling it with a weekend away at the ski haven of Kodiak Valley - a place remembered from their youth as party central, where the booze and girls were always on tap.

Bundling the unwilling Jacob in the car for the ride, they head for their imagined idyll, only to find that recession has changed the place somewhat. Their old hotel is falling apart at the seams, the one-armed bellhop is seven notches south of surly and their old room a tired excuse for holiday heaven. Out on the deck, the hot tub appears to be more like a hot bed for disease until Chevy Chase's mysterious maintenance man works some dohicky magic on it, turning in to an invitation to party. Before you can say "tequila slammers!" the boys have stripped off and jumped in - but their night of boozy excess sees them transported back to a signifcant point in 1986 and, with the exception of the as yet unborn Jacob, back into the bodies of their teenage selves. The question being, can they re-enact the events past and still get back to the future?

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What ensues is an odd combination of comedy types, which despite being more muddled than a frat house 'cocktail' still manages to maintain a level of charm. There's the summary poking of fun at those crazy trends of the Eighties - leg warmers, anyone? - plenty of low-brow sex gags and a running joke about how the bellhop (Crispin Glover, yet again making a big impact in a small part) came to lose that arm of his.

And even if the plot does zip around uncontrollably before running almost completely aground in the last 15 minutes, the characters themselves are well-drawn enough to hold the thing together - the central males, at any rate, the broads here are played extremely broadly and mostly used as set/sex dressing. Still despite its brashness, one of the posse of writers who worked on the project manages to find a little room to make some rather sweet comments about the enduring nature of friendship.

Too indisciplined to really make the most of its great premise but endearing enough to make this a trip back in time worth taking nonetheless.

Reviewed on: 02 Sep 2010
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A group of friends get transported back to 1986.
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Director: Steve Pink

Writer: Josh Heald, Sean Anders, John Morris

Starring: John Cusack, Clark Duke, Craig Robinson, Rob Corddry, Chevy Chase

Year: 2010

Runtime: 99 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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