Gading Movie Review: Hot Tub Time Machine

We don’t talk about movies much here at Gadling (though we make exceptions when it comes to OnDemand and George Clooney). Recently, however, we were captivated by the trailer for a travel film that left us ready to camp outside our local theater. When a travel film like this comes along, it’s hard for us not to sit up and take notice. And this past weekend, that movie finally hit theaters and demanded our attention. That movie? None other than Hot Tub Time Machine. “But it’s not a travel movie,” you say? Well, it’s called “time travel” not “time staying in one place.” Time travel is the ultimate trip. Rather than just looking at a map and selecting your next destination, you have the entirety of history (and, theoretically, the future) at your fingertips. So, with the excitement of time travel piquing our interest and 80s nostalgia luring us in, we caught a matinee (hey, movie tickets are expensive) of Hot Tub Time Machine over the weekend so that we could share our thoughts with you.

Is it worth your entertainment dollar? Does it capture the zeitgeist of travel? Did we laugh a lot? Keep reading to find out.The film stars 80s movie veteran John Cusack, The Daily Show alum and comedic spitfire Rob Corddry and The Office’s scene stealing Craig Robinson as three old friends who have drifted apart since their heyday in the decade of decadence. Joining them is young Clark Duke, who plays Cusack’s character’s nephew. After Corddry’s character ends up in the hospital, the friends reunite for a weekend bender in their formerly favorite (and now dilapidated) ski town. And, as you probably know by now from the trailer, they end up in a hot tub that is way more than just a seedy, bubbly cauldron of sin.

Where HTTM excels is in its commitment to simplicity. There’s no techno-jargon or flux capacitor. If you’re looking for explanations of the space-time continuum, you’ve purchased tickets to the wrong movie. The writers have basically decided that some movies take place in New York and others take place in the past. The 1980s serve as the location and getting there is less important than what happens there. And, as a comedy, this is a fantastic strategy. Rather than ask the audience to believe a sci-fi explanation of time travel, just get to the punchlines.

And there are plenty of punchlines. Without going over the top with nostalgic 80s references, the film captures the mood of the decade (and the campy comedies that it birthed) through great costumes, classic music and sly references (Karate Kid fans should pay attention throughout). The 80s jokes never have a chance to get old as the dialogue is just clever enough to keep you engaged in the characters. And with a classic (some might say clichéd) storyline centered around missed opportunities and friendships, the plot is an ode to many of the movies that made Cusack famous.

Sure, the film slows down a bit in the second act, but it wraps things up well before you have a chance to get bored. Despite it’s campy title, it’s actually a more subdued comedy than The Hangover. HTTM keeps things simple, starting with its title and continuing through its jokes. But simple isn’t bad. Simple is classic. Just like the 80s.

We’re giving Hot Tub Time Machine 4 chlorine tablets (out of 5). It’s a fantastic comedy and a genuine travel movie. Hot Tub Time Machine is rated R and currently playing in theaters nationwide.