Hot Tub Time Machine
Male bonding would be one of the last reasons I’d buy a hot tub.

Theatrical Release Date: 03/26/2010
Director: Steve Pink
Cast: John Cusack, Clark Duke, Craig Robinson, Rob Corddry, Sebastian Stan, Lyndsy Fonseca, Crispin Glover, Lizzy Caplan, Collette Wolfe, Chevy Chase, Charlie McDermott

For many of us, 1986 is marked with memories of Ronald Reagan as President, multiple viewings of “Top Gun”, regrettable fashion and nights spent watching the Keatons or Cosbys in prime time. For three best friends (John Cusack, Craig Robinson, Rob Corddry), 1986 is the time of their lives – the highlight of which is a vacation to Kodiak Valley, a ski resort area ripe with day-glo ski bunnies, ski patrol hot heads and the setting for Winterfest ’86, where Poison will be headlining the evening’s festivities.

As fate and the script for “Hot Tub Time Machine” would have it, that’s exactly where these friends (and a subsequent member of their fold, Clark Duke) are transported back in time from 2010 via a … well … a hot tub time machine. The guys do their best to avoid altering the future while awaiting a chance to return there and reexamine a crucial junction in their lives – a night that could change everything they’ve become in the last 24 years. Don’t worry about the scientific principles behind such an idea, it’s like trying to wrap your head around all of the delicate underpinnings of “Back to the Future” – it’s best just to sit back and enjoy the film.

To that end, director Steve Pink and his team have done a remarkable job of touching on a whole host of nostalgic fads and history of the times. Eagle-eyed ’80s enthusiasts could go a bit crazy trying to spot every allusion to the era. Aside from the clothes and hairstyles, some of the recognizable elements include homages/references to “Back to the Future”, “Red Dawn”, “Alf”, “The Karate Kid”, “Miami Vice” and for bonus points, spot something from “Say Anything” or hear a reference to “Better Off Dead”. Musically, the soundtrack is similarly loaded with the 80s, heavy on the Poison and Mötley Crüe though still throwing in hits from Men Without Hats, The Cutting Crew and plenty more.

To get a film like this right, you need the right casting and that’s something the filmmakers definitely got right. Craig Robinson, Rob Corddry and Clark Duke are all very good at filling out a comedic ensemble. The key to it all though, when casting a film about the ’80s, is to also utilize key actors from that era. Bring in John Cusack. An ’80s icon who’s maintained and expanded his appeal since then, his involvement ties the production together (sort of like a floor rug in “The Big Lebowski”).

Add on to that Crispin Glover, who we also see in both time periods, and a harder to spot Billy Zabka cameo (he goes by William now) that is sure to please “The Karate Kid” fans who still remember him as the best on-screen bully of all time. Everyone meshes well with one another and keeps the film moving along, as each of them must face some personal demon that’s been haunting them ever since that fateful night.

Obviously a key element to the film’s success is also the production design. While the crisp and clean film stock doesn’t help bring me back, nearly everything else on screen does. It really is a film version of “I Love the ’80s” and all that’s missing is a gaggle of comedians commenting on the whole affair. “Hot Tub Time Machine” provides some laughs and a nice collection of actors. A 3.5 out of 5, it’s not this year’s “The Hangover” but if you’ve seen the trailer and thought the jokes were funny, you’re going to get your money’s worth.

(added 1/2/11): One thing I must note is that ever since this hit the DVD market, I’ve been watching it again and again. The unrated version adds a few more laughs (though I’m still trying to figure out why they say unrated rather than director’s cut) and I dare say this may have more replay value than “The Hangover” … moreso because of my obsession with the 80s than anything else, but there you have it.