John Cusack et al. are loud, obnoxious, juvenile and … wry

Mar 31, 2010 at 12:00 am

When you plop down good money to see a movie called Hot Tub Time Machine, you should know that you're rolling the dice, but here are a few key bullet points that might be helpful: 

1) It's a spoof 

This farce about three aging buds and a young sidekick getting sucked through a mystical Jacuzzi wormhole back to the ultimate ski party rager of '86 is itself a loving tribute to the lost epoch of legwarmers, break dancing and teen sex comedies. Every minute is loaded with winks and nods spanning the whole genre both popular and obscure, from Meatballs to Hot Dog: The Movie. There's a pop quiz afterward. 

1B) John Cusack 

Cusack was himself a mainstay of '80s teen sex romps, including Sixteen Candles and The Sure Thing, and was the star of the cult favorite Better Off Dead, which featured a climactic ski showdown. 

2) It's pretty raunchy 

Of course, you could guess that from the title. What you might not have guessed was the amount of random violence, nudity, bodily fluids, sex acts and silly gay sex paranoia. Also: A grown man vomits on a squirrel. 

3) Chevy Chase is in it

The once and future Clark W. Griswold is here, playing a quasi-magical handyman who drops cryptic clues about time and fate. That's not really a bad thing, but since he's not in any of the trailers I thought I'd point it out. 

4) It's kind of lazy

All the cheap stereotypes of the era are on display, with spiky Mohawk punks, blazer-wearing new wavers, burned-out metalheads and preppies all conveniently rubbing elbows at a Poison concert, as if the '80s were a cultural monolith. Worse, all of the extras are decked out in truly hideous neon getups that were never actually worn at the time by anyone who was not a Benetton model. 

5) Math is not a strong suit 

One character is described as 20 years old in 2010, then travels back to witness his conception in 1986. Yes, I am nitpicking. 

6) It's kind of smart 

When not busy being dumb, gross or homophobic, Hot Tub Time Machine is actually pretty clever, juicing laughs out of its high-concept premise and mocking itself. The characters are also a bit more rounded and alive than you'd expect, and when Cusack sharply points out that the '80s with "Reagan and AIDS" had plenty of downside, and that eroding friendship is the real issue, it's clear the movie has slightly more on it's mind than a simple nostalgia party, and that is, dare I say it?, totally awesome, dude.

Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].