Getting your Evanston news from Facebook? Try the Evanston RoundTable’s free daily and weekend email newsletters – sign up now!

Chances are anyone who thinks that a film titled “Hot Tub Time Machine” is going to be kitschy, irreverent and so-dumb-it-has-to-be-funny will dig this comedy. 
If the mere mention of the title evokes images of the apocalypse (omnipresent these days), run for the hills and lock the bunker.

I found the title’s idiocy brilliant, and therefore enjoyed director and frequent John Cusack-collaborator Steve Pink’s (he co-produced and helped write the screenplays for both “High Fidelity” and “Grosse Pointe Blank”) ode to ‘80s raunchy, angst-filled teen comedies.

A strong, comedic ensemble elevates the gag-heavy script.  The motley crew comprises three estranged, unfulfilled childhood friends – John Cusack as relationship-challenged Adam, Rob Corddry (“The Daily Show”) as suicidal alcoholic Lou and Craig Robinson (Darryl from “The Office”) as Nick, the cuckolded husband whose cheating wife forced him to take her last name – and Adam’s teenage nephew Jacob (Clark Duke), who would rather spend his time in the online pseudo-world of “Second Life” than live out his real one.

After a near-tragedy (played for laughs, of course), the gang decides to reunite and reignite their forgotten youth by returning to the awesome place they spent their debauchery-laden youth – a once-thriving, now-dilapidated ski resort – until a drunken dip in the hotel hot tub takes them wa-a-ay back to 1986.

The screenwriters employ a useful device that is not fully exploited:  The boys look (to the other characters and in mirrored reflections) just as they did in 1986 and must act accordingly to avoid disrupting the time-space-continuum (please refer to Robert Zemeckis). When Nick first begins to suspect something is wrong, he appeals to a passerby:

“Excuse me, miss?  What color is Michael Jackson?”

“Black,” she says, confused.


Moral dilemmas arise as the (literal) man-boys risk changing the future by sleeping with girls, besting their childhood rivals and perhaps setting themselves on a better course in life, all while getting sloppy-drunk and snorting mounds of cocaine (it is 1986, so, when in Rome …).  

Musing over the possibility of creating better futures for themselves, Lou decides what he would do to make the world a better place.

“Prevent Miley Cyrus,” he quips.

The cameos are a little bland. Crispin Glover is a present day, armless bellhop whose two-armed 1986 self becomes a mildly amusing running gag of “How will he lose the arm?” Chevy Chase is benign as a possibly divine hot tub repairman who appears randomly with either sage advice or a bunch of nonsense.

A great, eclectic soundtrack featuring such ‘80s staples as hair metal (Motley Crue, Poison), new wave (Talking Heads, INXS) and rap (Public Enemy) inject vibrancy into the story of the lives of the four losers, as do such welcome ‘80s references as fellow time-traveler film “Back to the Future,” anti-commie shoot-em-up “Red Dawn,” Kid n’ Play haircuts and all the awful excesses that were leg warmers and parachute pants.

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