Steve Pink, director of 2006 film Accepted, is the man in charge of what many are hoping to be this year’s The Hangover – Hot Tub Time Machine. This manly comedy for manly men shows us what happened one night when Adam (John Cusack), his nephew Jacob (Clark Duke), and friends Lou (Rob Corddry) and Nick (Craig Robinson) come across a hot tub that turns out to be no ordinary hot tub. Before I go off and review this thing bear the following fact in mind: last year’s The Hangover raked in $467,323,663. In case you are number-illiterate that is nearly half a BILLION dollars. This is enough to pay off the budget deficit of many small countries, or similarly pay off the debt of Manchester United F.C.
Back to the ‘Hot Tub’ and in Adam we witness a middle aged man fresh out of another failed relationship; his nerdy loser nephew Jacob; his unhappily married and regularly humiliated friend Nick; and balding, suicidal party animal Lou, as they attempt to bring back the good times by taking a vacation together in one of their old haunts. Their unfortunate personal lives are used not only to good comic effect, but also to help the viewer sympathize with the characters. Giving up on regaining their youth they decide to simply get drunk in the hot tub outside their hotel room, without warning they wake up in the eighties in the bodies of their younger selves.
One thing that chains this movie down that The Hangover was completely free from is responsibility. This has its upsides and its downsides. The good news is that the characters feel real and are memorable, rather than The Hangover’s quickly forgotten two-dimensional characters. Incidentally, thinking back to that movie can you remember anything other than Mike Tyson punching the fat guy, and the appearance of a tiger and an unexplained baby? Thought not. How that film managed to make so much money and whip up so much hype I’ll leave to movie executives hungry for cash. However with great responsibility comes great weight. The comedy is weighted down by the sci-fi aspect as it has to have the plot make sense and the story stay logical (within the Universe of the film). One great thing about The Hangover was the feeling that anything could happen and the story and characters could go anywhere. Here the film is tied down to specific linear plot points that it must reach in order to satisfy the ‘time machine’ aspect. Rather than the state of Nevada to play with, we are instead trapped within an 80’s ski resort. The funniest moments of the film are all arguable squeezed into the journey to the present-day resort as we get to know the characters and hear the general banter between old friends.
Despite its set-backs Hot Tub remains an extremely amusing experience. A few gags fall flat, but are clearly filler material in what is otherwise a satisfying comedy. The actors are all funny men and there is little to criticize in the movie other than it is good, rather than great, could have done with being perfected more, and the overall standard improved before it’s release.