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Hot Tub Time Machine

The 1980s were very good to John Cusack. That’s when he became a star, and he has gone on to be identified with the decade. In Grosse Point Blank, which may be his “signature” movie (and which he co-wrote and produced), he plays a hit man attending his high school reunion, an excuse of lots of 1980s nostalgia.

He’s back in the 1980s to less effect in Hot Tub Time Machine, which was directed by his Grosse Point writing partner (and high school bud) Steve Pink. Cusack, Rob Corddry, and Craig Robinson star as friends, miserable in wasted lives on the verge of middle age, who try to relive their youths with a weekend trip to the ski resort where they had high and wild times 20 years ago. Via the cheerfully ridiculous medium of the title, they are transported back to 1986 on a key weekend in their lives.

Persuaded by the expertise of Cusack’s nerdy nephew (“I write Stargate fan fiction, so I know what I’m talking about”), they decide that they have to do everything the same as they did it back then, painful as it might be, lest they rend the fabric of time. More vague advice is provided by a handyman who appears to be played by Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, though the credits insist its Chevy Chase.

If you’re expecting the sharp edge of Grosse Point Blank, forget it. I don’t know when Hot Tub was shot, but it seems clearly modeled on the gross-out formula of last summer’s hit The Hangover. Cusack may be the star, but the movie is dominated by Corddry in the equivalent of the Zach Galifianakis role, piling on the kind of humor that delights 16-year-old boys. There’s a certain amount of tribute/homage/reference to 1980s films, with large chunks of Back to the Future and nods to forgotten slobs-vs.-snobs comedies like Up the Creek, but it’s indifferently addressed, as if the director decided on set that it would alienate audiences too young to remember the era. (More attention is paid to dredging up outfits Cusack wore in other films.) Even the soundtrack is woeful: There were a lot of good tunes in the 1980s, but it takes the film 58 minutes to dig one up, though fans of Poison and Motley Crue may disagree.

Sloppily constructed and lazily filmed, Hot Tub Time Machine appears to be a product of people who stopped caring about it after realizing that it was going to be sold to audiences on the basis of jokes about constipated dogs, leaky catheters, and the repulsiveness of sex between people of the same gender.

—m. faust

Watch the trailer for Hot Tub Time Machine

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