Hot Tub Time Machine: It is what it is

It’s a buddy movie for dudes with lots of funny jokes, nicely paced directing, 80s nostalgia, boobies, and bodily fluids. I could say more….and, sorry, I have to.

All right, sure, buddy flicks! A guy and a guy and maybe another guy, they get together and wreak some havoc! Sometimes there are rips in their relationships and by the end these have usually been sewn up again. It’s a real genre that has spanned decades, in one form or another, and as it is within any genre, there are great buddy flicks and terrible buddy flicks. There are also really funny ones, really gross ones, really gross AND funny ones, ones with lots of boobs, teen buddies, older buddies, drunk buddies, college pal buddies…there are all sorts of elements that you can mix and match. Buddy flicks can also be sex comedies, and really they originated with buddy cops (Lethal Weapon). Neat! These days, they’re all over the place, mutating and evolving as fast as Hollywood can churn them out. The successful ones in recent years seem to pepper a group of relatable characters with one or two singularly bizarre guys. Think Frank “The Tank” in Old School, Stifler in American Pie, Polonius in Hamlet (just kidding). But now, ladies and gents (but mostly gents), we have Hot Tub Time Machine‘s Lou, aka “The Violator” (played by Rob Corddry).

If you’re turned off by the title of this film, don’t be. Considering the way titles go these days, it’s actually quite good. It’s not a saying or a phrase from teen slang, it’s not a pun, it’s simply what it is: a movie about a hot tub that takes you back in time.* Directed by Steve Pink, Hot Tub Time Machine is the story of three old friends who grudgingly reconnect during a pitiful trip to their old hangout spot, Kodiak Valley. Both their lives and their vacation are pretty disappointing, but, as happens from time to time in these situations, their hot tub is a time machine.

Adam (John Cusack), Nick (Craig Robinson), Lou, and Adam’s nephew, Jacob (Clark Duke), wake up to find themselves in 1986. Not only that, they are the 1986 versions of themselves (except Jacob, he hadn’t been born yet so he travels back in time as himself in 2010 — don’t think too much about it, it’s a time machine in a hot tub). The hot tub has plopped them directly at the start of what had been a life-changing weekend for the young blokes. Jacob, concerned about butterfly effects on the future, notably his own birth, helps them realize that they have to try to recreate events as faithfully as possible in order to keep their 2010 lives intact. But…don’t their  2010 lives kinda suck?

There’s your premise. It’s The Hangover mixed with Back to the Future, complete with stylistic elements from the former and eccentric actors from the latter (Crispin Glover is back again! Two movies in 2010!!). Hot Tub‘s writing team (Josh Heald, John Morris, Sean Anders) is funnier and more clever than The Hangover‘s, though. Pink’s directing is tighter and much better paced, and the acting is from a different league entirely. I enjoyed it muchly and laughed lots of times.

But, you guessed it, here’s the big “However…” Regrettably, as is the case with too many of these movies, the screenwriters couldn’t turn out a funny, edgy script without infusing it with totally unnecessary homophobia and sexism. I mean, they could, but those are the jokes that make the audience really guffaw, so why bother? The majority of Hot Tub‘s female roles are sluts, sexual tools to move the plot along. None of them have anything to say for themselves; in fact most oblige the nearest male with a come-hither look, no matter who he is, even if their husbands have wagered their fellatio skills in a bet.

Couldn’t this just be a comment on how backwards things were in the 8os? If that were the case, somebody (anybody!) would learn some sort of applicable lesson about how to respect women (or if the culprit IS a woman, how to respect themselves). Instead, our heroes do whatever they want, and we laugh at it and cheer when they manage to change the future so that they don’t have to merge their last name with their wife’s (the horror!).

Movies don’t have to be this way. I Love You, Man was just as funny (more so, if you ask me) with just as many gross-out bodily fluid moments and certainly as much male bonding, yet it managed to treat women as fellow human beings while still acknowledging some gender differences as fact. Even the resolutions of American Pie and Superbad shows how those young ne’er-do-wells mature in their understanding and treatment of females. And if your film is more misogynist than American Pie, something’s not quite right.

So even though I found myself smiling more often than screwing up my mouth in distaste, I gotta dock some stars. It’s hard to say in good conscience that the cleverness of a comedy can make up for these kinds of things, especially when I know from some excellent examples that the genre doesn’t require it. You can’t blame the genre. You can, however, choose to accept that these moments exist in Hot Tub Time Machine, note that they are repulsive, shake your head in regret that 2010 hasn’t figured this kind of thing out, and enjoy the rest of the film.

If I can do it, you can, but if you won’t, I don’t blame you. There are other films to enjoy.

*Dude, Where’s My Car?: A movie about a guy who asks another guy where his car is! I should write taglines.

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Susan Howson

Susan Howson is managing editor for this very website. She writes THE BEST bios.

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