When commercials for “Hot Tub Time Machine” began circulating, the movie came off as a poor, uninspired imitator of the “Frat Pack” formula that has kept Will Ferrell, Seth Rogen and all of their buddies perpetually in theaters for the past several years.
And considering that Will Ferrell only gets it right about 50 percent of the time, copycats face risky odds. But, in its first weekend in theaters, “Hot Tub Time Machine” was a surprise hit, earning praise from critics and the number three spot on the Box Office charts.
So what is all the hype about?
The movie begins slowly and predictably, with all the familiar character types. You’ve got Adam (John Cusack), whose girlfriend just dumped him; Lou (Rob Corddry), the party animal; and Nick (Craig Robinson), the whipped married dude, all of whom are suffering, in their various ways, from mid-life disappointment.
These three lifelong buddies are joined by Jacob (Clark Duke), Adam’s “Second Life”-loving nephew and this movie’s token nerd.
Jacob joins the gang on a weekend trip to a ski resort that served as their stomping grounds when they were younger and life was one big party.
With the help of a malfunctioning hot tub and some Russian Redbull, the men suddenly find themselves young again and at that same never-ending party. It is the year 1986, which means bright pastel colors, leg warmers and “Jessie’s Girl.”
Somewhere around this point, the jokes start coming rapid-fire and the vast majority of them hit the mark.
The tired and trite gives way to lots of laugh-out-loud moments, punctuated by the main cast’s hilarious dialogue. As in “The Hangover,” there is no true leading man in this movie, but all the contributors fit together well.
Though his role is small and his performance simple, Cusack seems to strangely hold “Hot Tub Time Machine” together, while parodying a few of his own films from the ‘80s.
Duke’s poise is surprising in his first major role on the big screen, especially in his banter with the characteristically outrageous and over-the-top Corddry.
But Robinson is the biggest stand out. He’s always shown perfect delivery and comedic timing on “The Office” as Daryl, the warehouse manager, and “Hot Tub Time Machine” provides a welcome opportunity for him to bring those sensibilities to a larger role.
By its end, “Hot Tub Time Machine” provokes a surprising amount of questions:
Are the vows of marriage still binding on a man who has traveled to the past before those vows were made?
Has abandonment in all of his fraternal relationships caused Lou’s degeneracy, or has his degeneracy forced all his friends to abandon him?
Are homosexuality and heaps of f-words really the funniest things America can think of?
But this is a farcical comedy, and nobody is really interested in answers. The point is to enjoy the questions and the hilarity that surrounds them.
If you are a fan of “Anchorman,” “The Hangover” and all the gratuitous nudity, profanity, alcohol and drug-use that comes with the territory, “Hot Tub Time Machine” will provide plenty of laughs.
“Hot Tub Time Machine”
Director: Steve Pink
Release date: March 26
Main cast members: John Cusack as Adam, Ron Corddey as Lou, Craig Robinson as Nick Webber and Clark Duke as Jacob