Hot Tub Time Machine
3 out of 4 stars
After watching director Steve Pink's "Hot Tub Time Machine," it would be easy to label it little more than a Judd Apatow knock-off. There's a trio of 40-something man-child losers and their geeky Generation Y tag-along who engage in imbecilic debauchery while on a trip to gauze-thin self-enlightenment.
As it turns out, Pink and his producer-partner John Cusack started this micro genre now practiced by Apatow nearly a decade ago with "Grosse Pointe Blank" and "High Fidelity" -- two very smart silly comedies that almost certainly had some influence on Apatow and his ilk.
Far from perfect and rife with gaping plot holes "HTTM" is nonetheless able to combine frat-boy sexual hijinx with easy-to-stomach sentimentality to brilliant effect. It also pushes its hard "R" rating almost beyond the breaking point. This is not an early stage date movie but rather something established couples or groups of men and women going separately can fully enjoy.
As he often does, Cusack plays the straight man who keeps the mayhem in check as Adam, a regular guy whose live-in girlfriend has just moved out and taken with her most of his possessions. She left behind Jacob (Clark Duke), Adam's bi-speckled,
base-dwelling, video-gaming nephew whose floozy mother Kelly (Collette Wolfe) is off somewhere up to no good.
Adam soon gets a call from Nick (Craig Robinson), his whipped, failed-musician friend informing him that their buddy Lou (Rob Corddry) is in the hospital after a failed suicide attempt. Both Adam and Nick have kept their distance from Lou -- a lifelong flesh and blood skid mark who says whatever is on his mind, almost all of it inappropriate.
Taking pity on Lou, a weekend getaway is arranged to a mountain ski lodge where great times were had in the '80s. Now dilapidated and mostly boarded-up, the resort town now offers little in the way of amenities, save for a magical hot tub.
Performing the same duties as the DeLorean in "Back to the Future," the hot tub transports the men to a time rich with ugly clothes, fabricated pop music and high quality, mind-altering chemicals.
Stunned and not all that thrilled to be reliving their not-quite-so-glorious youth, the quartet determines they must duplicate their actions of decades past if they have any chance of returning home. This proves to be highly problematic as Jacob was never there in the first place.
Pink and the three screenwriters (two of whom collaborated on "She's Out of My League" and "Sex Drive") pepper the script and sets with deadly accurate '80s visuals and cultural references while couching the self-absorbed attitude of the era perfectly. It's a living, breathing, fully functioning time capsule.
The movie loses some of its punch with the mostly useless extended cameos of Chevy Chase as a handyman who speaks in riddles and "Back to the Future's" Crispin Glover as a one-armed bell-hop. One scene featuring a same-sex incident gone terribly awry goes way too far and serves no real purpose other than to gross out and shock.
Light on its feet and mostly predictable, "HTTM" is an often gut-busting, non-mentally taxing stroll down memory lane that will deliver warm thoughts of nostalgia to the over-40 crowd and make it clear to those of Jacob's generation that people were somehow able to communicate and enjoy life quite well in a world without iPods, e-mails, texting and cyber-space. (MGM/UA)