Review: Hot Tub Time Machine

I generally consider myself a connoisseur of highbrow intellectual pursuits. My bookshelves are stocked with great works of philosophy, science and literature, many of which I have flipped through. I subscribe to The Atlantic Monthly, listen to NPR and linger in coffeehouses. Barking Carnival is bookmarked on my copy of Firefox, which I prefer to the proletarian Internet Explorer. I read JUGGS for the articles (which are about juggs).

But despite my impressive erudition, I am not above a foray into the boorish world of lowbrow humor. Truth be told, I enjoy it, in much the same way Hugh Grant relishes the occasional crackwhore knobjob. My latest crackwhore knobjob, if you will, was a viewing of Hot Tub Time Machine at the Alamo. And it may very well have been the best BJ I've ever had from a grimy crackwhore. Figuratively, of course.

HTTM will be released in theaters later this month, and television ads are already running. I advise you to ignore them. While the ads set out the basic premise of the movie, they seriously undersell its comedic value. Simply put, this is a very funny movie that stands up to repeated viewings (I may have enjoyed it more the second time around).

The basic premise should be obvious from the title. Having grown apart, a group of lifelong friends - Adam (John Cusack), Nick (Craig Robinson) and Lou (Rob Corddry) - are reunited by Lou's arguable suicide attempt. As therapy for their friend, Nick and Adam propose a trip to Kodiak Valley, the site of the group's former glory days. Upon arriving, the guys find that their old stomping grounds have lost their luster, but at least one thing remains: the hot tub.

After a night of drinking in the tub, the gang wakes up in 1986. Hilarity ensues. See the trailer for more.

Sure, it's a stupid plot. But the movie is completely self-aware - witness Nick's signature line from the TV ads: "It must be some kind of... hot tub... time machine. [knowing glance at camera]." Contrast HTTM with the overblown, self-indulgent Avatar, which was based on an equally ridiculous premise while remaining completely oblivious to its own preposterous underpinnings. In fact, HTTM explains the logic behind its sci-fi physics as thoroughly and believably as does Avatar. But, unlike Avatar, Hot Tub Time Machine transcends its absurdities and provides 90 minutes of entertainment.

HTTM is possibly the best inane comedy since Old School. In fact, the two movies are very similar. A group of friends with Peter Pan syndrome indulge in an absurd return to the apex of their carefree youth. Rob Corddry's Lou is basically a detestable version of Ferrell's Frank the Tank. Corddry was one of my favorite correspondents during his time on The Daily Show, and I'm glad to see him translate his talents to the silver screen. His performance is a highlight. Cusack, like Luke Wilson, plays the straight man fighting through the jackassery that goes on around him. Robinson's character is basically Darryl from The Office, but it's a role he plays well and typecasting is a forgiveable offense when, as here, it works.

Also like Old School, Hot Tub Time Machine gives men a new meme set with which we can simultaneously entertain each other and baffle our female life partners. Without revealing too much, you can expect the following lines to infect guy talk for the next several years:

"What? Guys do that. Guys do that!"

"...a classy one."

"What's up, fags?"

Quotability is a hallmark of comedies that withstand the test of time. Caddyshack, The Big Lebowski, Airplane! - all yielded a bevy of quotable lines that resonate with the male humor id. This is why I expect The Hangover to eventually vanish from our collective consciousness, even though it was an enjoyable movie. I saw it. I enjoyed it. But I can't remember a single funny line from the movie, and I haven't heard or read it quoted.

So much could have gone wrong with this film. The time travel gimmick could have overshadowed the comedy. A pointless love story could have dominated the second half of the movie. The writers could have relied on cheap kitsch jokes ("Look at how funny people's clothes and hair were in the 80s!") for the humor. Somehow, these pitfalls were averted and the result is one hell of a funny flick.

If you're looking for a good laugh, I highly recommend Hot Tub Time Machine. It's inane, crass and irresistably funny. So funny, in fact, that I plan to see it a third time as soon as it releases. It's best viewed at the Alamo Drafthouse, or some equivalent alcohol-serving theater, with a group of drunken idiot friends. BC readers all have such a group at their disposal or, more likely, serve as someone else's drunken idiot friend. To paraphrase yet another quotable line from Hot Tub Time Machine: You're assholes. But you're our assholes.

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