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Movie Review: Hot Tub Time Machine

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I’ve found going to a movie every weekend to be a challenge. If I have to sit through the horrible trailer for Death at a Funeral one more time, I may visit the projection booth and give the guys a talking-to. Hopefully, nobody is anxiously awaiting my review of that horror.

The thoroughly enjoyable new comedy Hot Tub Time Machine is a different story. Until this week, I’d never heard of it. It totally snuck up on me – and what a pleasant surprise.

The movie follows three middle-aged guys on a peculiar odyssey. A nostalgic getaway to a ski lodge leads to a drunken dip in a hot tub. When an energy drink spills on the controls, the tub transports them back 24 years. They find themselves stuck in 1986.

You may say, “What a stupid concept, a hot tub turning into a time machine.” But, I’d reply, “Any less likely than a DeLorean?”

Yes, what we have here is Back to the Future for 2010. That movie looked back 30 years from 1985 to 1955, from a time of Reagan to poke fun at a time idealized by Reagan. Now, we get to jump back from 2010 to 1986 to poke fun at a time fondly remembered by today’s 40-somethings. Why we do so is hard to say. Hair bands and Pretty in Pink aren’t exactly things we’re dying to relive. Are we?

Hot Tub is actually a rather clever and deliberate riff on Back to the Future. Both feature improbable time machines fueled by rare substances. As much drama comes from trying to retrieve a Russian energy drink from the hands of Red Dawn-obsessed villains as from Doc and Marty trying to generate 1.21 gigawatts of electricity.

Both movies have characters making little slip-ups that threaten the nature of their existence when they return to their home times. There is even a character in both who may cease to exist if the right two people don’t find a way to get together.

The most clever and entertaining connection though is the casting of Crispin Glover. He played Marty’s dad George McFly in Back to the Future and is back here in all his quirkiness as a bellhop. In 2010, he’s missing an arm. In 1986, he still has the arm and discovering how he lost it is the source of many humorous moments. Will it be by chainsaw? How about by runaway elevator?

Glover has a way of enlivening any movie he’s in and the same goes for the star of Hot Tub, John Cusack. He’s never made a bad movie. And what a nostalgic trip this must’ve been for him. In 1986, he made the ‘80s time capsule movie One Crazy Summer.

Words of warning: this is a raunchy comedy similar to last year’s The Hangover. Much of it revolves around looking to get laid – and the female characters are simply objects to get laid. You can also ask while approaching the ticket window: “Is a movie that uses projectile vomiting as a running joke my sort of thing?”

Driving home after the movie was a surreal experience. The radio was playing a recording of American Top 40 from 1986 including “Throwing It All Away” by Genesis, a song that would fit the movie well. When I got home I had to check and make sure it was still 2010. Yep, still have a daughter needing help with math homework. Nothing’s changed.

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