Movie review: ‘Hot Tub Time Machine’ full of corny nostalgia

by Max Gelber

Three college buddies reunite for one last hurrah of a road trip to mend a grown-apart friendship while escaping the lives they never thought they would end up having. Sound familiar? Well, this film is just about as paint by the numbers as you can get, while completely missing the B-movie charm its title tries to indicate.

“Hot Tub Time Machine” follows three former best friends, Adam (John Cusack), Lou (Rob Corddry of “The Daily Show” fame), and Nick (Craig Robinson, from “The Office”), as well as Adam’s nephew Jacob (Clark Duke, from “Greek”) taking one last road trip to the ski resort where they spent some of their best college days partying. However, the place they remember is now a run-down shanty town and the most of the guys’ hard partying energy is just no longer there. This all changes, as the trailer for the film already gives away, when the men are sent back to the ’80s via the resort’s outdoor hot tub.

The guys are now faced with the task of either repeating the events of the past over again to insure the future they know is kept intact, or learn from the mistakes they have made and make the decisions they regret not doing all along.

What follows is a screenplay lost in utter confusion. It tries to be a fun, campy romp through the past; meanwhile there is a slew of choppily thrown together romance and infidelity plot lines that try to bring some level of depth to these characters. Because if a movie with a title like “Hot Tub Time Machine” needs one thing in its script, it’s character development.

To even think of comparing this movie to great ’80s time travel movies like “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” and “Back To The Future,” or even last year’s road trip comedy “The Hangover” would be an insult. Unlike “Hot Tub Time Machine,” those films were too smart and had too much good material to rely on gross-out sight gags involving projectile vomiting, semen and dog crap. Not to mention one too many homophobia-inspired blow job jokes.

And unlike those other films, this one doesn’t trust that the audience is willing to tune out and just go along for the ride. Instead, the writers feel the need to hold your hand through every nostalgia gag (Haha, Jehri curls! Oh man, look, brick cell phones, classic!) and homage to ’80s films like “Red Dawn,” “Better Off Dead” and “Real Genius.” Let’s not forget the fact anyone born after 1990 (or truthfully, anytime after ’85 as well) won’t be getting these jokes to begin with.

There exists a very fine line between being so stupid it’s bad and so stupid to actually be kind of brilliant, “Hot Tub Time Machine” crosses this line and then some, resulting in a film that is just a bit better than the “[Insert Genre] Movies” of the past few years (i.e. “Scary Movie,” “Epic Movie”). For anyone looking for a schlock-filled B-movie that does it right, stick to 2006’s “Snakes On A Plane.”