(From left) Clark Duke, Rob Corddry, Collette Wolfe, John Cusack, and Craig Robinson confront the ski patrol in one of Hot
Tub Time Machine's many scenes inspired by 1985's Back to the Future. Opens Wednesday 11 August at UCG De
Brouckère and Kinepolis (showtimes).
BRUSSELS (11 AUGUST 2010) – In setting your expectations for Hot Tub Time Machine (hereafter HTTM), ask yourself: How would a Bartles & Jaymes wine cooler taste...today?
Like the beverage, HTTM is a brightly-colored concoction made from two primary sources: the hard stuff from The Hangover (three buddies plus a tag-along misfit) and the bubbliness from Back to the Future (time travel assisted by an old guy). Bottled together, HTTM is original and easy to consume - without making any promises regarding its shelf life.
As opposed to the buddies in The Hangover who screw up their weekend, the men of HTTM have screwed up their lives.
Adam (John Cusack), who has a bland insurance job and has just been dumped by his latest disappointed girlfriend, is the group's alpha dog, if only physically and financially, and you can't help but feel that the hero of Say Anything, Better Off Dead and The Sure Thing should have amounted to more in life.
Nick (Craig Robinson, loading dock Darryl of The Office) once dreamed of a career in music but is now a cuckold with a crappy job (literally).
At the bottom of the happiness ladder is Lou (Rob Corddry), a man-teen who parties like a rock star but lacks the looks, talent, or ambition to be one. We first encounter Lou dancing with himself – Eighties references are appropriate here – in his garaged Trans Am, which lands him in the hospital with a case of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Interpreted as a suicide attempt by Adam and Nick, Lou's little episode sets up HTTM's problem (MBD: male bonding deficiency, of course) and solution: A gents' weekend at the Party Central of their youth: a ski resort called Kodiak Valley.
Crispin Glover (above, with Cusack) shines in HTTM's best running gag; Robinson, Corddry, Cusack and Duke (below) share a rare moment of peace.
It's necessary to mention here that a young misfit named Jacob (Clark Duke) tags along with the forty-something trio, though he serves primarily to make the plot function properly – and perhaps to remind us that today's youth will be plenty worthy of parody come 2030. Where is the get-up-and go in this kid? He's no Marty McFly.
Checking into their old "regular" suite, room 420 (bravo to the writers, a two-fer numerical harbinger), the four are led up to their rooms by the one-armed bellboy Phil (Crispin Glover, the original George McFly from Back to the Future), who is the butt of the best running gag since "You killed Kenny!"
Almost immediately the group begins bickering over the plan – Lou wants cocaine and hookers, Nick wants to chill –before the magic Jacuzzi of the title is fired up with the aid of a repairman played by Chevy Chase, who deserves better lines and here is only Funny For Being Famously Funny.
As anyone who's read Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything can tell you, half of the world's great inventions came about by accident; here lies the difference between a hot tub and a flux capacitor-equipped Delorean. It's not worth quibbling over the science (cf. Big as well), because the screen is quickly filled with skiers wearing Day-Glo jumpsuits so bright you will be reaching desperately for your Vuarnets.
Rather than being, like, totally psyched about being young again, everybody is freaked out about how they'll get back, as well as the Bradburian "butterfly effect" – that the future could be changed if they don't repeat the same exact moves they made in 1986. They could have picked a better night.
Adam, faced with reinitiating his ugly breakup with Jenny (Lyndsy Fonseca), reconsiders the timing of the event as he watches her change the clothes on her 1986 figure. Other temptations ensue for Nick and Lou, resulting in a humiliation scene that would make the entire cast of American Pie blush.
Meanwhile, the inevitable cocky blonde ski patrol guys of the era are back, threatening to strand our "heroes" on the temporal island of 1986; in another Back to the Future update, young Jacob begins flickering on the screen.
It all works out, generally with Rob Corddry stealing the show in a brilliant, shameless comedic performance. HTTM has only a modest share of nostalgic references to Rambo, Reagan, Red Dawn and the like, but they're all incidental – this film's strength is in the high hit rate of its rapid-fire gags.
It's a common conceit among American Gen-Xers that they were all listening to The Smiths and and Elvis Costello in high school, but the Billboard charts show otherwise. As it does with its characters' other faults and failures, HTTM's soundtrack shines several bright spotlights on the budding CD collections of 1986, many of which are today buried in "classical" folders on iTunes, where nobody ever looks.
Unless you wish to reflect on the film's mirroring of contemporary American socio-economic trends (privileged ski-brat children of the 1980s now struggling in life, etc.), do not see a matinee of HTTM. Instead, concoct your own wine cooler from the concession stand, see it in the evening and hey, dude: check out those rad hairdos!
Hot Tub Time Machine is rated R in the US, 18A in Canada, 15 in the UK and 16 in Ireland; children over 12 admitted in Belgium. This film contains nudity, strong sexual content, drug use, extensive use of four-letter words, and objectionable wardrobe choices.
UGC De Brouckere: 19:30 21:40
Kinepolis Brussels: 14:45 17:15 20:15 22:30
65% of the "Top Critics" at RottenTomatoes.com have given positive reviews of this film.
Certification: USA: R | Canada:18A | UK:15 | Ireland:16 | Belgium: Children over 12 admitted