Mon. May 16th, 2022

Upon viewing, it doesn’t take one long to discover that “Hot Tub Time Machine,” starring John Cusack and Craig Robinson is little more than a paring of “The Hangover” and “Back to the Future” sprinkled with 80s clichés. Despite its familiar premise, the film still manages to manufacture enough laughs to render its unoriginality forgivable.

Directed by Steve Pink, whose work includes the slacker comedy “Accepted,” the film follows three friends, Adam (Cusack), Nick (Robinson) and Lou (Rob Corddry), along with Adam’s 20-year-old nephew Jacob (Clark Duke), as they inadvertently travel back in time to the eighties and relive one crazy weekend of their youth.

True to its title, the time machine happens to be a hot tub, but how and why our protagonists are sent to 1986 are clearly secondary issues in this film to what they’re going to do now that they’re there.

Essentially the film’s premise is a means to create running gags and superficially examine which past choices led each character to their present incarnations. The most pressing question presented to the characters is given their knowledge of the future, what would they change?

While it may be abortive to ponder too deeply the moral implications of a film whose humor commonly relies on bodily fluids, ethical dilemmas face the characters at every turn.

Lou, the most morally bankrupt of the friends, immediately attempts to profit off his future knowledge by making bets on a classic football game of which he knows the outcome.

More questionable though is his plan to take credit for inventions of the future such as the Internet.

Nick, whose younger self was a musician, utilizes his knowledge of the future to claim a Black Eyed Peas song as his own.

This reviewer won’t spoil the film’s happy though predictable ending, but it is interesting that the audience is supposed to root for protagonists who shamelessly seek self gain while knowingly stealing the work of others, especially when they receive little to no punishment for their ethical indiscretions.

Ultimately this film’s interest is not in dissecting morality, but in stuffing as many jokes as possible into each and every scene, some crude and some deceptively clever.

The cast performs these comedic scenarios superbly as John Cusack’s everyman charm meshes well with Craig Robinson’s deadpan delivery, Rob Corddry’s over the top nihilism and Duke Clark’s doughy geekiness.

Well-placed cameos by Crispin Glover who plays a one-armed bellhop and Chevy Chase as a mysterious repairman round out the exceptionally cast film.

In the end casting is what saves this film, transcending its sometimes gross-out scenarios to moments of unrestrained humor.

The chemistry of the characters overcomes the plot’s shortcomings as well as the film’s questionable moral compass by transforming each scene into mindless entertainment, and what else should one expect from a film whose title is as audacious and absurd as “Hot Tub Time Machine.”

Keinan Fry is a fourth year student majoring in English. He can be reached at KF634551@wcupa.edu.

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