Review: "Hot Tub Time Machine" retro fun

  • Article by: KARA NESVIG , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 25, 2010 - 3:26 PM

The comedy is as silly as a pair of leg warmers -- and just as cozy.

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Craig Robinson, Clark Duke, Rob Corddry and John Cusack in "Hot Tub Time Machine"

I was born in 1987, one year after the events in "Hot Tub Time Machine," and even I know that people didn't dress quite so colorfully in the decade of Reagan and Alf. We of the college-age generation, to whom this film is clearly marketed, have seen photographic proof that things were a bit more ill-fitting acid wash than skintight lycra. But, distractingly clichéd wardrobe aside, "Hot Tub Time Machine" is a surprisingly enjoyable way to waste 90 minutes if you're into dude humor and penis jokes.

Former BFFs Adam ('80s cinema idol John Cusack), Lou (former "Daily Show" correspondent Rob Corddry), Nick (Craig Robinson of "The Office") and Adam's nephew Jacob (Clark Duke) are sad sacks. Adam's girlfriend just left him and took everything but the kitchen sink. Nick abandoned his dreams of musical stardom for dog grooming gruntwork. Young Jacob spends his days in a dark basement playing "Second Life" while Lou drowns his lonely sorrows in straight-up vodka and Mötley Crüe.

When Lou risks his life rocking out in the garage with the car running, his friends take him on a ski trip to relive their '80s glory days. But the resort of their youthful debauchery has become just as lackluster as their lives. A drunken accident with a faulty hot tub and some illegal Russian energy drinks sends all four men back to 1986. Cue a plethora of romantic entanglements with chicks in legwarmers, bar fights with clean-cut preps and mountains of cocaine.

"Hot Tub Time Machine" is ridiculous, but everyone involved is in on the joke, so its complete implausibility works. Cusack, who also produced the film, has fun riffing on his sensitive '80s persona while Corddry's Lou is abrasive and crude, the frat brother who never grows up, a la Will Ferrell in "Old School." But Robinson steals the film with his deadpan portrayal of the hapless Nick, who electrifies the partiers of the past with a sneak preview of the Black Eyed Peas' "Let's Get It Started."

The humor is frat-boy juvenile, but it feels authentic given the context; every sperm gag and pop culture reference belongs right where it is. Those who lived through the decade of Duran Duran will smile at the sly homages to classic '80s flicks like "Sixteen Candles," while those who weren't even twinkles in an eye will enjoy the "rager gone wrong" premise.

Screenwriters Josh Heald and Sean Anders try to give the movie some heart through the zen wisdom of Chevy Chase (playing a hot tub repairman) and a dorky conclusion that tries to make a point about male friendship. But in general, "Hot Tub Time Machine" is snappy and self-aware in its stupidity. If I told you I didn't have a good time watching it, send me back in time to the screening and prove me wrong.

  • HOT TUB TIME MACHINE

    ★★★ out of four stars

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

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