If the ostensible objective of each generation of raunchy road comedies is to up the ante in terms of debauchery, then Hot Tub Time Machine definitely deserves to be given its due, since this relentlessly vulgar exercise in depravity easily outdoes many of the earlier examples of the shock genre. For instance, remember that moment in There’s Something about Mary (1998) where Cameron Diaz mistakes semen for hair gel? Well, now you better brace yourself for the sight of a guy messily ejaculating all over the face of one of his buddies.
Or how about the Oedipal overtones of Back to the Future (1985), in which Michael J. Fox found himself fending off his own mother’s advances? By contrast, in this case we have a character, who travels back in time to watch himself being conceived by his naked mom during a drunken one-night stand?
The movie also makes an allusion to more recent “teensploits,” such as The Hangover (2009), which featured a convicted sex offender molesting a missing infant. Here, we have incest instead of pedophilia, with a man erotically massaging his grown son’s private parts.
This sort of tasteless fare proves to be par for the course in Hot Tub Time Machine, a cinematic sign of the imminent collapse of Western civilization. Directed by Steve Pink (Accepted), the movie stars John Cusack, Craig Robinson and Rob Corddry as best friends, each in the midst of a midlife crisis.
At the point of departure, we learn that Adam (Cusack) has just been dumped by his girlfriend; Nick’s (Robinson) controlling wife (Kellee Stewart) is cheating on him; and clinically-depressed Lou (Corddry) feels he has nothing to live for between his alcoholism and erectile dysfunction.
So, Adam and Nick decide to try to cheer up their pal by planning a vacation getaway to the same ski resort which served as the site of their sordid sexual conquests during the lost glory days they all so sorely miss. And for good measure, they bring along Adam’s video-game-addicted nephew (Clark Duke), an agoraphobic who needs to get out of the basement.
Soon after their arrival at the Silver Peaks Lodge, the buddies find themselves magically deposited in 1986 for a second go-round as bawdy bachelors, courtesy of an electrical short circuit of the hot tub they’re marinating in. The story doesn’t bother to offer a plausible scientific explanation for this astounding development, nor as to why our heroes suddenly look young again to everyone other than each other.
However, they do determine that they really have been teleported back a quarter of a century by asking someone whether Michael Jackson is Black or White. That line might have been funny were the “Prince of Pop” still alive. But it goes over like a lead balloon in the wake of his recent passing.
Other questionable skits which should have hit the cutting room floor include projectile vomiting on a defenseless squirrel, an adult prompting a child to share his Ritalin, and a running joke about how the ski lodge’s bellboy (Crispin Glover) lost his arm in an accident. Nonetheless, in essence, this sleazy flick is a titillating, homoerotic fantasy masquerading as a nostalgic, male-bonding opportunity. Watch as the latent lads indulge their every forbidden fantasy in a drug- and alcohol-fueled stupor until the clueless custodian (Chevy Chase) finally figures out how to reverses the effects of the faulty hot tub.
A kinky cross of Caligula and Back to the Future.
Poor (½ star)
Rated R for nudity, graphic sexuality, crude humor, drug use and pervasive profanity.
Running time: 99 Minutes