Initial Score: 6.8
-Critically (and I imagine otherwise as well) Hot Tub Time Machine has been drawing comparisons to last years The Hangover and for good reason. Both films cater to the same demographic (anyone who enjoys their comedies anchored on the ridiculous and overstated end of the spectrum), revolve around 4 men in an incomprehensible situation, and are aware they live or die based on how the consequences of said situations play out. Other then The Hangover not venturing into time travel territory (though not completely removed from the temporal concept) the main difference between these 2 films that try compensate for a paper thin plot by assaulting us with an endless stream of jokes is The Hangover leaves a moderately larger dent on our collective funny bone then HTTM. It's not that HTTM isn't funny it's just that it isn't very funny, most of the humor draws chuckles rather then the nonstop uncontrollable laughter promised by the trailer.
-Hot Tub Time Machine is one of the best titles I've seen in recent cinema history. It's very bold, regardless of your reaction to it it makes you ask yourself if only for a second; Do I want to see a film about a hot tub that also happens to be a time machine? Or is it a time machine that happens to be a hot tub? It's such a powerful title because it immediately divides people into two groups; those that answer yes and those that answer no. Which is important to note because it goes to show regardless whether you're interested in it or not it did if only for a second grab your attention, something many film titles can't do. Finally it lets you know exactly what you're getting into and while it's not necessarily a good thing to give away so much of the plot it's acceptable here because the film doesn't hinge on a mystery of any kind it simply want to make you laugh and if the title doesn't then you've been given fair warning.
-Roughly the first 20 minutes serve as exposition, offering us insight into the lives of 4 characters who lead to put it mildly lackluster lives. Adam is one of these characters; an insurance salesman who although disillusioned by getting dumped and not being able to make his nephew see what the world outside his computer is like is not unfamiliar territory for John Cusack. His nephew Jacob (Clarke Duke) serves as Steve Pink's commentary on younger generations preferring to live life through an electronic screen then through physical experience, and apparently by the look of his basement sunlight is Jacob's eternal enemy. Nick couldn't make it as a musician and now cleans the insides of dogs which I'm sure thrills him to no end, although Craig Robinson transports his sly dry wit into Nick giving us a very bitter and funny in the sad way man. Rob Corrdry throws himself way out there not giving heed to any sense of self preservation as Lou a hyper depressive teen in the body of a middle aged man. While it may seem trivial on the surface I really liked this beginning portion because while comedies don't necessarily require us to like the characters (and sometimes it's more fun to hate them) we are asked to understand their stations in life so that what follows makes as much a difference to us as it does the characters.
-After a near death experience Lou is in the hospital where Adam and Nick and eventually even Jack attempt to brighten his spirits (as well as their own) with a getaway trip to a ski lodge holding fond memories only to find it's a dump with as much life as the dirt it's built on. 4 depressed men, a broken down ski lodge, and a gloomy atmosphere call for massive amounts of alcohol but apparently they didn't read the instruction manual on their hot tub especially the part about spilled alcohol inducing time travel. Attempting to relive the fun they had in the 80's or in Jack's case the fun he never had the quartet go with the flow while trying not to ruin their futures. After a few drinks and 2 decades later (or before in this case) at some point you have to ask yourself why am I not taking advantage of the situation? That's exactly what they do except for Jack who although half the age of his peers is the only one focused on getting back to the proper time.
-The stage is set 4 men from the 00's are in the 80's!...but now what? According to HTTM showing how unfashionable and silly the time period was is the best course of action rather then taking advantage of such a ridiculous plot Steve Pink keeps us focused on a gag reel of the 80's masquerading as the 80's. While the bulk of the film takes place in a ski lodge the imagination and humor level isn't too far off from resembling a barren wasteland. A few of the countless jokes most notably Crispin Glover's turn as a supposedly soon to be one armed bellhop offers fresh humor and a taste of how funny time management can be but at the same time illuminate how much better HTTM could have been. Like with all movies including a time controlling hot tub each character needs to use the opportunity given to right past wrongs with hilarious results in some cases and not so much in others which brings me to my next sticking point. While considerable time has been invested in making the audience see and sympathize with the cast, very little time if any is given to let the consequences play out and breathe, the third act hurries together a conclusion that assumes death is at hand for the filmmakers if audience expectations aren't met!
-HTTM is worth seeing if only to satisfy your curiosity about what such a title could contain but be warned those expecting stomach pain inducing humor will leave disappointed. There are some big laughs and most of the jokes are in line with the time travel motif it's just that most of it is very lazy. Take leg warmers, lack of email access, knowledge of future events and set for frappe and what you regurgitate won't be too far off what you find in HTTM. John Cusack collaborates again with Steve Pink although the results are confusing because Cusack clearly understands his character and Pink clearly knows what we remember about the 80's but watching HTTM you'd think Cusack never argued his convictions as strongly as he did in High Fidelity nor would you know Pink is over 20.