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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Hot Tub Time Machine

August 26th, 2010

Hot Tub Time Machine - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

Hot Tub Time Machine is one of those movies you look at just once and know it is going to be stupid. It's a movie about a group of people who travel through time using a hot tub. It's got to be stupid. However, stupid movies can also be entertaining movies. Hell, stupid movies can even be good movies, if the people making them understand the type of film they are involved with. So is that the case here?

The Movie

The film focuses on three middle-age men whose lives have not turned out the way they expected, and one college-age kid who is on the same path. John Cusack plays Adam, who was just dumped by his girlfriend, who in the process took most of his stuff (and burned most of the rest). Clark Duke plays his nephew, Jacob, who lives in Adam's basement playing video games while avoiding his mother and her current live-in boyfriend. Craig Robinson plays Nick, who used to be in a band but now works in a pet spa and has a controlling wife. Rob Corddry plays Lou, who spends his time partying, despite being way too old, and as a result has alienated his family and friends.

Coming home from another night of partying, Lou parks his Pontiac Firebird in his garage only to hear his favorite 1980s hit on the radio. Drumming along and revving the engine is a natural instinct, but this is a bad plan in the confines of his garages and he gives himself carbon monoxide poisoning. Thinking he tried to commit suicide, Adam and Nick rush to the hospital and try to console him by taking him to Kodiak Valley Ski Resort, which was the site of the best weekend of their lives. (At least that's how they remember it.) The three of them, and Jacob, pile into their car and head up the mountain. When they get there, they find the place rundown and overrun by cats. With nothing to do but play drinking games, they eventually decide to head into the hottub and get wasted on all the booze Lou brought with him, including a strange drink from Russia called Chernobly, which has some strange ingredient that means its illegal to possess. After getting completely wasted, they wake up the next day and do some skiing, but instead of having a hangover, the feel great. The feel like they are 20 years younger.

It's actually 24 years earlier.

Yep. The hot tub was a time machine and they've traveled back in time to 1986 and the very weekend that was such a highlight of their lives. However, a Hot Tub Repair Man comes to fix the hot tube that took them there and warns them that if they change the past, they might not have any futures. They have to do everything over again, to the smallest detail. This is when they realize this was a terrible weekend. Adam broke up with his girlfriend, who then stabbed him in the eye with a fork. Nick bombed on open mic night ending his musical career. Lou got into a fight and was beaten up by the entire ski patrol group. Jacob figures out his mother was there as well, and likely conceived him with a stranger during the weekend, arguably has it the worst.

However, despite the dire warnings, and Jacob occasionally flicking out of existence, they start to think that this is their chance to change their destinies.

So is this a stupid movie? Hell yes. It is also surprisingly smart for such a stupid movie and walks a fine line between making fun of the 1980s and using the 1980s to give the film a sense of nostalgia. The way the four realized they were in the past was great. Seeing Reagan, Alf, etc. on TV, all of the 80s fashion, the music, the technology. ("He's rocking a cassette player.") They even use this time to give a shout out to a John Cusack film from the past. The film is part 1980s sex comedy, but with a more modern sensibility, which includes more raunchiness and crude jokes. It isn't exactly kind to the 1980s either, making fun of films like Red Dawn, for instance, and they have a lot of material to mine for laughs.

In addition to the laughs, there's a really good story involving mid-life crisis that is about more than buying a little red sports car. You could believe that at one time these people were friends, but that this friendship had been on life support for a long, long time. Wanting to go back in the past to correct mistakes you've made must be one of the most common desires and the evolution of the attitude of the troupe from "Change nothing." to "One little thing won't hurt." to "I'm taking back my destiny." feels very organic.

That is not to say the movie is perfect. There are a few too many gross-out jokes, it takes a sentimental turn near the end that is not exactly 100% deserved, and the ending is wrapped up just a little too neatly. Also, this type of time travel does have its fair share of clich├ęs and the film does step into more than a few of them. Also, some of the time the actions of the people were a little... off. The best known example of this was in the trailer when Nick looks at the camera after saying it's a hot tub time machine. This line delivery is one of the funniest parts of the film, but it also takes the viewer out of the movie a little bit. It is funny enough that it is forgivable. On the other hand, they learn that Lou is Jacob's father, which is actually quite obvious very early on. After Jacob interrupts Lou and Kelly in bed, he disappears and the guys realize Lou has to get Kelly pregnant right then, or Jacob will cease to exist. However, while they are discussing this, Kelly is right there in the room. Those three know about the time travel, but she doesn't, yet she doesn't freak out when one of the guys disappears, nor does she object to the idea that she has to get pregnant, right then. It struck me as strange, but not so much so that the scene wasn't still very funny.

Hot Tub Time Machine is a movie with one of the most perfect names ever, as it let's you know exactly what kind of movie to expect. And with expectations clearly in check, it delivers on what it needs to by offering plenty of humor, raunch, and even a little bit of heart. It is absolutely worth checking out.

The Extras

I only have the Blu-ray, which has a mere 12 minutes of deleted scenes and 6 minutes of fluffy promotional interviews. It does come with a digital copy, which adds some value to the package, but for a first-run release, this is unacceptably weak in terms of extras.

Technically, the film looks and sounds great for a movie that is mostly a dialogue-driven comedy. There's strong detail throughout, good contrast, and the couple musical scenes do take advantage of the surround sound speakers. Its not a disc you will use to show off your home theater, but it isn't flat either.

Finally, at the moment the Blu-ray is actually cheaper than the DVD, but even the difference in the list price is not bad at 33%.

The Verdict

Hot Tub Time Machine is a very fun movie, but the DVD and Blu-ray are weak releases. For many, the replay value will be enough that it is worth picking up, especially if you grew up in the 1980s and have a soft spot for the type of film that inspired this one. On the other hand, the lack of substantial extras means a lot of people will consider it a rental.

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