Pleasanton Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - April 2, 2010

Movie Review

Hot Tub Time Machine

by Tyler Hanley

Three stars

Rated: R for pervasive language, strong crude content, sexual content, nudity and drug use

1 hour, 40 minutes

"The Hangover" meets "Back to the Future" in this hilarious and unapologetically adult buddy chuckler. A cornucopia of tongue-in-cheek '80s references -- including the presence of leading man John Cusack, who made a name for himself in '80s movies such as "Better Off Dead" and "Say Anything..." -- fuels the entertaining plot and riotous scenarios. Soak it up.

Three longtime friends have watched their lives steer in decidedly different directions than they had envisioned in their youth. Adam (Cusack) is dealing with a nasty breakup while looking after his video-game-obsessed nephew (Clark Duke as Jacob); Nick (Craig Robinson) abandoned a music career for marriage and dog grooming; and the once-"cool" Lou (Rob Corddry) has become a foul-mouthed alcoholic.

Eager for a soul-searching spark, the three pals, with Jacob in tow, head out to the ski-resort haven of their late-teen years. A night of inebriated partying lands all four in an outdoor hot tub that turns out to be -- you guessed it -- a time machine.

When the fellows come to they are stuck in the year 1986, forced to relive a day that was a major turning point of their young lives. The chance to amend past missteps becomes an unavoidable draw for Adam, Nick and Lou. Meanwhile, Jacob frantically tries to get the group back to the present year with the help of a mysterious repairman (Chevy Chase in a terrific welcome-back role).

Cusack, Robinson and Corddry are exceptionally cast and all shine. Cusack's everyman sensibilities and solid acting chops help keep the film from leaning too far into the absurd. Robinson -- quickly becoming one of my favorite comedic actors -- coaxes laugh after laugh with his deadpan delivery and wealth of terrific dialogue. And Corddry nearly steals the show. His character has the most depth, while the actor is brazen and fearless with his delivery and physicality.

Viewers easily offended may want to keep their bathing suits shelved. Adult language, drug use and raunchy humor are often extreme.

"Hot Tub" is also clearly geared toward the Gen-X crowd, those who remember watching Miami Vice and listening to Poison. It is riddled with subtle odes to the '80s that probably won't all be noticed even after a fifth viewing.

The big surprise is that, ultimately, the movie is heartwarming. It touches on messages about friendship, aging, regret and redemption that are universal regardless of which decade you grew up in.

Some hot tubs are relaxing. This one is a riot.

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