Hot Tub Time Machine not only happens to have one of the greatest film titles of all time, but it also happens to be the spring's funniest dumb movie.
The premise is retarded, yet brilliant; so stupid, it's genius: a group of grown men drink themselves to oblivion in a ski resort hot tub and wake up to find that it's 1986. Call it The Hangover meets Back to the Future.
Lou (Rob Corddry) is an divorced alcoholic; Nick (The Office's Craig Robinson) has a controlling wife who may be cheating on him; and Adam, (former 80s teen idol John Cusack) has just been dumped by his girlfriend. Reconnecting at a hospital after Lou's latest binge lands him in there, the group decides to have a weekend of male-bonding at a ski resort that was a part of their free-wheeling youth.
With Adam's nerdy Gen-Y nephew Jacob (Clark Duke) in tow, they arrive to find the resort in shambles, not unlike their own lives. After getting completely wasted in the room's outdoor hot tub, the group wakes up the next morning hung-over, only to discover to that they are back in the 1980s as their younger selves. (Except for Jacob, who remains the same age as he wasn't born back then.)
Old bullies and girlfriends re-emerge to wreak havoc like no time has passed. The guys reluctantly go through the motions of reliving those painful moments so as to not disrupt the butterfly effect. However there's a fine line between reliving the past, settling old scores and making some changes in order to ensure a brighter future.
Young Clark, however, has a vested interested to keep the others on track. As he starts to flicker in and out of physical presence amidst the 80s mayhem, he needs to make sure everyone sticks to the plan to ensure he'll exist when they return to 2010.
A movie like this wouldn't be complete without an appearance by an 80s legend and it comes in the form of Chevy Chase. The Vacation veteran plays a hot tub repairman who is either a bumbling old man or a sage who holds the key to helping the group get back to the future (no pun intended!)
A sub-plot involving a one-armed bellman (Crispin Glover, who coincidentally starred in Back to the Future) crescendos to a satisfying and hilariously bloody conclusion.
The 80s touches are spot-on and aren't presented in a way that would make today's young male going audiences feel lost by references to an era gone by. (Case in point: the success of the Back to the Future clearly shows that 80s kids watching it at the time did not feel alienated by the film's 1955 setting.)
At the same time, there are subtle inside jokes and references only those growing up in the 80s would understand. Look closely and you'll spot 80s staple actor Billy Zabka in a cameo appearance.
Director Steve Pink, a long time Cusack screenwriting collaborator (High Fidelity and Grosse Point Blank), continues to show strength as a comedy director. Hot Tub is a terrific follow-up to his solid 2006 directorial debut, Accepted, which starred the then newbies Justin Long, Jonah Hill and Blake Lively.
Comparisons to The Hangover are inevitable. Both are about a bunch of grown men getting in to some major trouble over the course of 24 hours. Both films even feature stars from The Office - the aforementioned Robinson in Hot Tub and Ed Helms in Hangover.
Casting-wise what Hot Tub lacks, however, is a studly lead like The Hangover's Bradley Cooper, or an actor with massive star appeal like Michael J. Fox in his Back to the Future days. And though the wonderful Rob Corddry (who, like Zach Galifiankis, had always been underused on screen pre-Hangover) finally gets a nice showpiece, he doesn't quite have that wild-eyed streak of unpredictability that makes Galifiankis so appealing.
Still, all the actors look like they are having a blast in their roles, and it's infectious. Winking their way through the film, they don't take themselves too seriously and neither do we, leaving us happy to have joined them along for the wacky ride.
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