Hot Tub Time Machine (2010)

(In theatres, April 2010) It used to be that high school jocks beat up nerds and took their lunches.  Now, in this kinder and gentler world, they’re just stealing their movie ideas and using them in frat-boy comedies.  I kid, but not much: for if time-travel is the conceit at the core of Hot Tub Time Machine, it’s about the least science-fictional science fiction film of the year so far. The time-traveling becomes a pretext for jokes at the expense of the eighties, in a plot generously watered in alcohol, crass language, loose morals and enough crude sexual material to fully warrant an R-rating.  Three middle-aged losers wallow at the core of the story, trying to recapture their youthful binge-drinking episodes.  While John Cusack does fine with his usual shtick, he’s almost the only likable character in-between other repellent lunatics and losers.  In-between a dumb-as-dirt fatherhood mystery, constant threats of amputation, plentiful swearing, superficial laughs at eighties fashion and unexplainably homophobic set-pieces, Hot Tub Time Machine isn’t much of a recommendation for R-rated comedies.  There are, to be fair, a number of chuckles along the way, from squirrel jokes to one reference to Hunter S. Thompson.  But little of this manages to patch up the unpleasantness of the rest of the film, which ends up leaving a less than pleasant impression.  If nothing else, consider that the film’s musical highlight is a cheerfully anachronistic performance of “Let’s Get Retarded” in 1986.  The future, as presented by Hot Tub Time Machine, is even dumber than the mid-eighties.  Now that’s saying something.

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