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Overall Rating

Awesome: 2.63%
Worth A Look44.74%
Average: 7.89%
Pretty Bad: 18.42%
Total Crap: 26.32%

4 reviews, 14 user ratings

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Hot Tub Time Machine
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by Erik Childress

"Like Watching Back To The Future Get Raped"
1 stars

Last year I created quite a stir by denouncing The Hangover for what it was. A wasted premise swept up in the hands of a comedy director that should be taught in film school on opposite day. I come not to bury that film again but to simply remind readers who may not have agreed with me of my feelings towards that comedic suckhole. A reminder so they realize that while I do agree with those who have already started to call Hot Tub Time Machine "this year's Hangover", in no way do I interpret that as a compliment.

In the present, our heroes are not exactly living the high life. Adam (John Cusack) has come home to a wife that has left him nothing but a spare television and his geeky nephew, Jacob (Clark Duke). Nick (Craig Robinson) works at a pet shop where he is reminded of his days as a singer. Their buddy Lou (Rob Corddry) has wound up in the hospital after drinking his way into a garage filled with car fumes. In order to lift his spirits, Adam & Nick decide to take Lou on a trip to their old stomping grounds, a mountain ski lodge where their glory days are long behind them.

The lodge has not exactly lived up to its memories either having become as run down as its patrons. Shining like a ray of hope on their patio though is a glowing hot tub which helps make their weekend a bit more memorable. Waking up the next morning, the foursome discover that they have traveled back in time to the year 1986 where each of them faced a crucial turning point in their lives. Jacob had not been born...yet...and is in danger of being erased from existence. Seems like we have seen that somewhere else before. As for the others - who see each other in present form while everyone else sees them as teenagers - they are advised by a mysterious repairman (Chevy Chase) not to alter anything that happened to them in this moment of time. That means Adam must break up with his hot girlfriend (Lyndsy Fonseca) again, Nick must perform with his band and Lou needs to get his butt kicked again.

Like with The Hangover, the elements are there for a rowdy, raunchy ride of serendipitous discovery - but also the opportunity for the kind of heart akin to the fanciful recollections of a generation's past or, at the very least, time travel films interested in changing things for the better. However, the screenplay by Sean Anders and John Morris, the scribes behind Sex Drive and She's Out Of My League, becomes some sort of miracle of misinvention. Pandering to the lowest denominator of gross-out jokes, Anders, Morris, co-scripter Josh Heald and director Steve Pink should all be ashamed of themselves for squandering the good will of such a meaty premise.

For starters, they have managed to wrangle John Cusack to star in their film. The headliner of the Savage Steve Holland era of filmmaking has made no secret of his desire to distance himself as far as possible from this period of his career. At the time he vowed never to play another high school student again (until a little miracle called Say Anything was dropped in his lap.) The arc of his resume didn't stray entirely from comedic roles (just ones of a more adult nature) and he has admitted to never seeing any of the John Hughes films - past the one he was in - because he didn't "understand them." What a coup to now have this guy willing to mock the very decade that he despises. "I hate this decade," Adam shouts! You tell 'em! You would be better off dead than revisit that one crazy, um, winter on the slopes. So have at it. What do the writers have for you? There's a skiing scene. OK, K-12 and all that. And the big joke is that you all crash? Alright, what else? No big race against your rivals to win the girl? No shotgunning of beers? You're not bad at basketball? No boom box? Everyone was aware they had John Cusack on set, right? And that you were throwing him back in the '80s where, whether he appreciated it or not, he was a staple of teen cinema? They had a sure thing and the creative minds behind this project didn't just come up limp, they castrated themselves.

As long as they have room for their big payoff gags I guess, which if you are keeping track come about in some order of a guy getting poop on his hand, the guys getting pee on their face, projectile vomit on a squirrel, getting stabbed in the face and one guy forced to go down on another. What does it say about a screenplay when its best running gag involves how the bellboy lost his arm and that is the best way they could utilize a guy like Crispin Glover, who might have had a joke or two up that empty sleeve about the consequences of time travel.

Comparing a film as trivial to Hot Tub Time Machine to the granddaddy of all time machine films would seem unfair if its biggest ideas were not directly lifted from the trilogy. Jacob's birth for one could have been a subversive exercise in him desperately trying to get his mom (Collette Wolfe) laid for his very survival. Instead the film treats the identity of his true father a mystery (that becomes obvious the millisecond the idea is introduced) and leaves Jacob to wander about as the brains of the time-space continuum - able to reference Karate Kid III but not Back to the Future. Nick & Lou take a cue from Part II in using their knowledge about a key football game to hustle cash. This leads to ab appearance froe the A-#1 character d-bag of the '80s, William Zabka. No, it takes your ability to recognize Zabka (who gets an "introducing" credit at the end) to be in on the joke - which is basically that it is William Zabka. No karate moves. No references to being on the diving team. No stories about the new boy at his high school that turned out to have breasts. Nope, he's just another d-bag, now with a mustache and a gun. What's the point movie? Seriously, what is the point?

There are huge gaping subplots like a mysterioso trip to Cincinnati that is left unresolved. The logistics of the hot tub's machinations are anybody's guess. Onm moment it is a cesspool with a dead animal in it. The next it is a sparkling spring that still needs an accidental jolt of a Russian energy drink for it to work. What Chevy Chase is doing is anyone's guess. Anders & Morris must officially be put into screenwriting purgatory after this travesty, but even they could not necessarily predict the good fortune in the casting and the failure to tailor their bare outline of a final draft to the film's strengths falls squarely on director Steve Pink. A longtime friend of Cusack's whose debut behind the camera was a better example of the sort of conceptual teen cinema from that era (Accepted) also helped co-write a film thirteen years ago (with Cusack) that better represented the undoing of a past worth reconciling. Look no further than Grosse Pointe Blank if you want to see the beating heart of a character who put the '80s well behind him only to struggle with confronting the one thing that helped make what he is today. It was funny, profound, romantic and an ode to a period that formed many of us as well. Throw in all the legwarmers, cassette players and Michael Jackson skin color jokes you can find. If that is all the filmmakers can conspire to remember about that decade, then they have a film deserving of a fate that was born of the same era - and that is one going straight-to-VHS.

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originally posted: 03/26/10 16:00:00
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User Comments

12/17/18 Ajpwales Crap what more can i say. 1 stars
10/13/13 David H. kept me entertained, despite the tasteless jokes 4 stars
8/01/11 Annie G Awful nothing more needs to be said! 1 stars
3/11/11 ES Enjoyable, but wy is Cusack slumming? 3 stars
9/24/10 gc some unneccessary bathroom humor, but Corddry hilarious throughout 3 stars
9/02/10 L. Slusarczyk complete waste of time. I still cant figure out WHY I watched it ! 1 stars
6/13/10 Chris F a lot better than i expected 4 stars
6/09/10 Eric Olsen The movie was extremely entertaining, and the cast had awesome chemistry. 4 stars
5/29/10 Melissa Blah...could have been so much better, so much more funny. 3 stars
4/19/10 Ronald Holst it made me think I GOT TO GET ME ONE OF THOES 4 stars
3/30/10 Eddie This movie was funny throughout (b/c of Corddry et al) but maybe could have lasted longer. 4 stars
3/30/10 Bryant RIchards THIS MOVIE IS DUMB 1 stars
3/26/10 futonzy you couldn't figure out the machinations of the hot tub time machine? Lighten up Francis. 5 stars
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  26-Mar-2010 (R)
  DVD: 29-Jun-2010


  DVD: 29-Jun-2010

Directed by
  Steve Pink

Written by
  Josh Heald

  John Cusack
  Craig Robinson
  Clark Duke

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