Hot Tub Time Machine knows that it's stupid. From the very beginning, when that literal title pops up, you know you're in for something simplistic and juvenile, and with jokes involving projectile vomit, mischievous squirrels and severed arms, that's exactly what you get.
Teen comedies like this are nothing new of course, with John Landis' Animal House popularising the genre in the early '80s, but what John Cusack is doing in Hot Tub Time Machine is anyone's guess. Playing a disgruntled, middle-aged version of his teen persona from the '80s, Cusack seems like he's slumming it a bit in this movie, yet he still delivers a sporting performance alongside a solid cast that does a decent job in bringing the puerile, gross-out laughs in abundance.
When a group of losers get together for a vacation in a dilapidated chalet at a resort in Kodiak Valley – a destination that holds great memories for Adam (John Cusack), Lou (Rob Corddry) and Nick (Craig Robinson) – the group - including Adam's young nephew Jacob (Clark Duke) – check out their hot tub only to find a dead raccoon in it. That is until the mysterious 'Repair Man' comes along, played by Chevy Chase, and fixes the knackered jacuzzi. The gang jump in for a mad, debauched night of drinking, only to spill a dodgy Russian energy drink called 'Chernobly' onto the control panel, transforming it into a portal into the past. Told you that title was literal.
You know what you're getting with Hot Tub Time Machine then, and when the four are transported back in time to 'Winterfest '86', the potential for gags about emails, iPods and changing the future are pretty obvious, but they're pretty well orchestrated nonetheless. For the most part, more of the jokes hit than misfire, although it still feels a little patchy in the laughs department.
The best thing about Hot Tub Time Machine is the '80s setting, with its soundtrack and familiar '80s faces like Back to the Future's Crispin Glover as a hotel porter and the aforementioned Chevy Chase as the Repair Man making a welcome appearance. There's a nice attention to detail, from neon yellow Walkman cassette decks, dazzling bright clothes, Ronald Reagan on TV and “Where's the Beef?” on a T-shirt.
The central conceit of Hot Tub Time Machine might be dumb – and let's face it, it is exceedingly silly – but at its heart is a sweet-natured wish-fulfilment movie, with a vein of coarse comedy and stupid slapstick running through it, it's throwaway fun while it lasts. Rob Corddry steals the show as the foul-mouthed Lou, with all of the best lines and some of the most absurd moments, while the rest of the cast seem to have fun in a film that's only occasionally laugh-out-loud funny, but it is nevertheless an enjoyable and entertaining watch.
On Blu-ray, Hot Tub Time Machine looks predictably great, with the bright primary colours of its '80s setting captured impeccably with its beautiful 1080p/AVC-encoded HD transfer. Every frame in the movie looks stunning, from the chintzy wood panelling of the hotel room to the strange, pulsing yellow glow of the tub itself, the visuals pop in almost every department. Skin tones are nice and natural too, except for the numerous fake tans of the bikini-clad girls on show. Blacks are good and solid too for the most part, with an occasional hint of greyness here and there. There's no DNR or compression artefacts to spoil the picture quality either, and the film has just the right amount of grain to give it a pleasant, warm tone. All in all, MGM has done a superb job with its Blu-ray transfer of Hot Tub Time Machine.
Hot Tub Time Machine's audio is perfectly fine, with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track, which ensures that the dialogue is crisp and perfectly audible, and delivers whenever the soundtrack kicks in. With plenty of '80s tracks from the likes of New Order, Talking Heads and Public Enemy, the bass keeps running and running (a little joke from the movie there) too. That is to say that the bass is nice and strong, giving the music and dialogue the clarity and depth required for a comedy movie. Essentially, it does what it says on the tin. Nothing more, nothing less.
Hot Tub Time Machine is sadly lacking in special features and supplemental material, which lets this disc down somewhat. Both Theatrical and Extended Cuts of the movie are available on the disc, which is nice, but some deleted scenes (11 minutes 46 seconds of them), a handful of incredibly brief promos (a combined run time of just 6 minutes 29 seconds) and the theatrical trailer (hardly a bonus) put a dampener on proceedings. We find it hard to believe that there were no funny outtakes or other behind-the-scenes shenanigans that couldn't have been slapped onto the disc to bulk things up a little bit. Disappointing. A digital copy of the film goes some way to salvaging an otherwise weak disc though.
If you're in the market for an unsophisticated, but enjoyable, if slightly crass comedy, then hot Tub Time Machine should be it. The set up is basically on the box with its title, which is easy to sniff at and dismiss as overtly silly. But that's the point. Hot Tub Time Machine has no pretences that it's anything but a stupid, but pretty funny – if a little disposable – comedy flick. That the Blu-ray is a quality disc – save for a severe lack of substantial extra material – certainly helps, and the movie is both effortlessly likeable and a lot of fun. Well worth a look.
Deleted Scenes (11:46)
Promotional Spots (6:29)
Theatrical Trailer (2:10)