“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” is the often-quoted paraphrase of statement made by Plato, and I think the same idea applies to humor. Whereas some people may find slapstick comedy hilariously funny, others may consider it insufferably stupid. And those who think seeing the Three Stooges beat the hell out of each other is supremely funny might view more sophisticated forms of comedy as a complete waste of time. Thus, films billed as “comedies” may be supremely funny for some people, but others may find nothing humorous about them. And all of this brings us to this week’s film – “Hot Tub Time Machine,” a movie that is every bit as moronic as its title, but also one that offers plenty of laughs for those who are into overtly raunchy humor.
“Hot Tub Time Machine” tells the story of four fellows whose lives are relatively pathetic. Adam (John Cusack) is an insurance agent who recently has been dumped by his girlfriend, and the only real “friend” he has left is his nerdish nephew Jacob (Clark Duke). But Jacob isn’t really much company because he lives in Adam’s basement and spends his days with his face buried in his laptop. Adam actually has two friends that he hasn’t seen in some time. Nick (Craig Robinson) is a guy who aspired to be a musician, but he didn’t make it, and now he works at a pet center where he spends much of his time expressing canine’s anal glands. Then there’s Lou (Rob Corddry), who is an accomplished drinker and who has just about decided that he doesn’t care whether he lives or dies.
One night he drives into his garage with the car stereo blaring and a bottle of booze in his hand. He closes the garage door and proceeds to gun the engine, filling the building with carbon monoxide. He survives, but he ends up in the hospital, and although he denies that he was trying to kill himself, Adam and Nick decide to help him get his life back together by returning to the Kodiak Valley Ski Lodge, where they had enjoyed a great time together 20 years ago. They head out and have no choice but to take Jacob along with them, and his presence really upsets Lou.
When they arrive at their destination, they are shocked by how the place has changed. The town is terribly rundown, and the lodge is in a sad state of disrepair, but despite their disappointment, they decide to make the best of a bad situation and check into their rooms with the aid of a semi-maniacal one-armed bellhop named Phil (Crispin Glover), who becomes a truly hilarious unifying device throughout the film.
Later on in the evening, they discover that the hot tub outside their room has somehow magically shed itself of the foul water and disgusting debris that had polluted in when they first looked in it shortly after their arrival. They all gleefully jump in and spend some quality time drinking and frolicking in the hot, frothy water. And they are having so much fun that they don’t notice when something is spilled on the controls and causes the gauges to go crazy.
Upon waking up the next morning, they are stunned to find themselves transported back to 1986, and now they must figure out some way to make it back to the present. The situation obviously affects each of them differently, but it poses a special problem for Jacob, who encounters the hot blonde bombshell (Collette Wolfe), whom he will ultimately call “Mom.”
“Hot Tub Time Machine” is rife with profanity (The F-bomb is in prevalent use throughout the movie.), gross sight gags, and nauseating scatological humor, and for those who like this kind of humor, it is a veritable feast of what many will label as excessive politically incorrect dialogue and myriad disgustingly inappropriate images.
Because I have never been a big fan of what I’ll call “bathroom humor,” I quite frankly thought some of the movie was needlessly grotesque, but overall the film has something to say about the importance of friendship, and it does contain some very funny sequences. And the four stars were consistently superb.
In his portrayal of Adam, the versatile Cusack achieved a nice blend of comedy and drama so that while we find humor in what Adam says or does, we also feel sorry for him in spots. Cusack is incredibly successful in eliciting both our laughter and our sympathy for his character.
Both Robinson and Clark also turn in stellar performances and display excellent comic timing throughout the film. Robinson has the honor of delivering uttering some of the best lines in the movie, and Clark is a consummate nerd. His reaction to seeing his mother in a new light is classic.
Corddry seems to revel in the role of the free-spirited Lou, who really finds himself during his time back in the 1980s. The issues he has had building throughout his life began in 1986, and now he has the chance to confront them again and perhaps change some things.
But my favorite character in the film is Phil, the madcap bellhop with missing arm. The saga of his arm runs throughout the film, and I thought the way this whole story was developed provided the highlight of the movie. And even old Chevy Chase is on hand as the hot tub repairman, and by the way, he’s not at all funny.
“Hot Tub Time Machine” (Give it a final score of 6.) is one of those films that some people will love and others will find a complete waste of time. Despite different reactions and various critical assessments of it, however, I seriously doubt that this will become a timeless film for the ages.