Deeper Into Movies: “Hot Tub Time Machine”

Ed. note: Somehow, this never made it out of draft and I’m too sick to write about indie rock. Enjoy.

As a child of the ‘80s and a now-20-something embroiled in the pop cultural nonsense of the ‘00s and ‘10s, Hot Tub Time Machine seemed as custom-made for me as a shit-covered Savile Row suit. On the one hand, it’s as big and broad and dumb a buddy comedy since The Hangover — poop, vomit, sperm and all manner of ejaculatory substances and blowjob jokes play prominent roles here — but on the other, it’s a spot-on homage to the comedic heritage of a bygone decade.

Hot Tub Time Machine, which, like Snakes on a Plane before it, embraces its high concept title with gusto, follows three middle-age burnouts and their tech-savvy nephew on a trip to the site of their youthful glory days, a ski lodge now a shadow of its former booze ‘n’ coke self. After they find a dead raccoon in the hot tub, the titular whirlpool invites them into its golden waters with inexplicable fanfare; like any great ‘80s movie, no one bothers to question the sudden turn of events before the quartet hop in and find themselves transported to 1986 in a strange marriage of Groundhog Day, Back To The Future and Weird Science.

The movie’s best jokes rely on transplanting modern references into the absurdity of the Reagan years, as when Rob Corddry drops a certain modern movie star’s name at a crucial moment during a coke-fueled bedroom romp, but it really is an homage to the era of Weird Science and Porky’s, full of cheesecake, concert scenes and a Crispin “Marty’s Dad” Glover running gag. It barely breathes without acknowledging meta elements, intentional (Glover, the ski lodge as a sideways reference to John Cusack’s ‘80s ski film, Better Off Dead) and not – Lizzy Kaplan, playing a young SPIN writer at the birth of hip-hop (OK, adorbs) is essentially a younger version of Cusack’s last on-screen love interest, 2012’s Amanda Peet. (Not to mention the heroine of show-of-the-millenium Party Down.) The film’s biggest problem is the issue of every clothing item in “1986” coming directly from a 2010 Apparel Apparel rack, but the joke might be on us with that one.

The film’s all-star cast – John Cusack playing John Cusack, Rob Corddry playing Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson playing Darryl from The Office and Rawkblog hero Clark Duke playing the film’s shy straight man – is in fine form here, and when the group reaches their wish-fulfillment conclusion (an ending only the ‘80s could love), one can’t help but cheer. “We had AIDS and Reagan,” Cusack says at one point of the years he and his friends left behind, but cheer up, John – as Hot Tub Time Machine proves, you had so much more than that. Shia LaBeouf!