There are times we stumble upon a movie with a title that accurately and succinctly reflects its high-concept premise while not altogether ruining it. And 'Hot Tub Time Machine' does exactly that without the slightest bit of confusion as to what the screwball comedy will be about. We know that someone will be traveling back in time, and we know that a hot tub will be involved somehow. The title also tells us the movie will show absurd, nonsensical behavior and self-indulgent stupidity, full of raunchy one-liners, gross-out gags and the occasional nude scene from a voluptuous woman — bodacious babes everywhere! But the one thing it doesn't tell us is that this satirical farce is smarter than it ought to be — a clever homage to 80s teen comedies set in resorts or on vacation.
Bored and feeling stuck in their middle aged lives, three high school buddies, Adam (John Cusack), Nick (Craig Robinson), and Lou (Rob Cordry), want badly to recapture their youth. They decide to revisit the place of their wildest teen years, the Kodiak Valley Ski Resort. With Adam's nephew, Jacob (Clark Duke), joining them, they discover the hotel is in a complete shambles, but they make the best of the situation and move their private party to a hot tub. When they wake up the next morning, they realize they've been transported back in time to 1986. As they wait for the repair man (Chevy Chase) to fix the hot tub's motor, the guys try not to mess with the time continuum, but end up reliving one of the most embarrassing weekends of their youth.
The movie makes enough allusions to the 1980s that having some familiarity with the decade could come in handy. Other than the obvious, even typical, remarks on the hair, music, and clothes, viewers can also enjoy the more subtle hints to some classic films of the era. While the Chevy Chase cameo and the John Cusack roles pretty much go without saying, Crispin Glover is once again allowed to play an older and younger version of the same character, and he also drives the same blue truck from 'Red Dawn.' William Zabka even makes an appearance just to throw in a 'Back to the Future' comment, and Robinson offers an amusing twist to Marty McFly's prom performance. Cusack and Lizzy Caplan fall for each other and take pleasure in a 'Sixteen Candles' moment. And if you don't laugh when someone randomly yells $2 dollars, then may I suggest watching more Cusack flicks. There are several other allusions throughout, but it's more fun letting viewers see the connections for themselves.
Aside from completely summarizing its basic plot in four simple words, the movie also perfectly captures the appeal of those situational 80s comedies. Of course, political correctness is quickly thrown out the window and the drunken debauchery of grown adults is on full display. However, it's all done with a purposeful heart in mind, where they confront their demons and come away from the vacation resort a bit wiser, similar to 80s flicks. 'Hot Tub Time Machine' doesn't only succeed at making us laugh with countless pop culture references or with an attempt at imitating the silliness of its predecessors. But more importantly, and much like the characters, the film wants to relive and even celebrate their charm, to introduce the humor which attracted many during the decade to a new host of moviegoers.
By the title alone, it may sound like an easy throwaway comedy, but 'Hot Tub Time Machine' is more clever than what its title lets us believe. If you know your 80s comedies, particularly the situational teen flicks, then this latest collaboration from John Cusack and Steve Pink offers plenty of hilarious laughs. And the "Home Sweet Home" music video was a seamless riot and . . . FREAKING AWESOME!
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment brings 'Hot Tub Time Machine' to Blu-ray with two versions of the movie on the same BD50, Region A locked disc: the rated theatrical version and an unrated cut. The 90-second difference between the versions is barely noticeable. Housed in a two-disc keepcase where the second disc is a digital copy, the cardboard slipcover is different from the cover art, relating the film's overall theme.
At start-up, viewers are shown a promo encouraging the use of digital copies and trailers for 'Our Family Wedding' and 'Date Night.' Thankfully, they can all be skipped, and we are then given the option between the theatrical or unrated. The main menu is the standard setup with full motion clips taken from the movie.
'Hot Tub Time Machine' debuts with an attractive and spotless 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode (2.35:1) that fans will surely enjoy. But there are a couple of minor issues which keep the video on this side of perfection.
Typical of most comedies, the palette is agreeably warm and welcoming, giving flesh tones a natural, lifelike hue. Primaries aren't obnoxiously bold, but they're often vivid and accurate. Contrast is comfortably bright, yielding intensely sharp whites and giving the entire picture plenty of pop. The picture also boasts strong clarity details throughout, especially in certain exterior shots and in close-ups where we can clearly make out the lines and wrinkles in the faces of the actors. However, the freshly-minted transfer does show a couple of scenes that look softer than others. This isn't a major hindrance but worth noting nonetheless.
Brightness levels can be somewhat wonky and indecisive, almost to the point of ruining shadows and other darker areas with a loss in the gradations. One minute, blacks are richly rendered with wonderful depth of field and the next, slightly dull and flat. This is made more apparent during interior shots versus when characters are running around outside at night. This is arguably a minor distraction and a matter of personal preference, but it's noticeable enough to mention.
This latest John Cusack comedy may not astound the ears of home theater enthusiasts or put a system to the test, but this DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack does a great job with what it has to work with. The design is, as expected, a front-heavy presentation with light bleeds in the surrounds reserved for the 80s music track. It doesn't offer an impressive enveloping experience, but it's a subtle quality which really opens up the soundstage. Low bass is surprisingly active and energetic, giving the music a hefty beat and depth. Channel separation is excellently balanced with smooth movement and convincing off-screen effects. Dialogue is well-prioritized and intelligible during a few moments of loudness. Mid-range is expansively sharp and room-penetrating, maintaining a clean consistency and evenness while in the higher frequencies. All things considered, 'Hot Tub Time Machine' sounds great on Blu-ray with a rocking soundtrack.
For this home viewing release of 'Hot Tub Time Machine,' Fox Home Entertainment doesn't exactly roll out the red carpet, but the supplemental material being offered makes for a quick, amusing watch.
With plenty of pop culture references and 80s debauchery, 'Hot Tub Time Machine' is not only a blast from the past but also a hilarious nostalgia trip. This perfectly titled comedy comes with great performances from the cast and a plot that relives the charm of 80s teen flicks, serving just the right mixture of lewd humor and a clever storyline. The Blu-ray presentation arrives with strong video and rocking audio, but the supplements are a bit of letdown. Overall, it's a great package for a fun comedy.