‘Hot Tub’ may not be classic, but is worth renting

Craig Robinson, John Cusac and Nate Corddry star in "Hot Tub Time Machine."

Published: Thursday, July 1, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, June 30, 2010 at 2:19 p.m.

What I find the most interesting about time-travel movies is that it would seem that this is a genre that should logically be dominated by science fiction. After all, there usually has to be some kind of really neat explanation for the whole breaking-the-laws-of-physics-by-traveling-through-time thing, right?

Strangely enough, most movies involving time travel are comedies. Sure, there are a lot of good sci-fi flicks, too, some horror movies and even a few dramas. But there are more comedies that use the far-out premise than any other.

“HOT TUB TIME MACHINE”: The latest also is one of the funniest in years.

It stars John Cusack, Craig Robinson, Rob Corddry and Clark Duke in a raunchy, raucous, unabashedly stupid comedy. I am a huge fan of movies with titles that perfectly encapsulate the film. Much like “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” the title “Hot Tub Time Machine” gives you a pretty good idea of what to expect from the story — you know you’re not going to get something intelligent or high-brow.

Cusack is a guy with many regrets. Robinson used to play in a band and now un-clogs dogs for a living. Their former friend Corddry has a crisis — he is so drunk and rocking out to Motley Crue that he almost kills himself ... and then plays it off as a suicide attempt to guilt his old pals into taking him back to the ski lodge where they used to party as teens.

One hot tub time machine later, and they are back in their heyday — which, as it turns out, didn’t contain as much “hey” as they remember. Much like “Back to the Future” played up the wild differences between the ’80s and the ’50s, “Hot Tub” focuses on how cheesy the ’80s were when compared to the ultra-cool 2000s.

Although it takes its cue from the classic “Back to the Future,” this movie is more in the vein of “The Hangover,” using vulgar, male bonding and wish fulfillment to play out an intentionally dumb and crude story. And I like movies like this when they are well done. Cursing in and of itself is not funny, but it CAN be hilarious.

“Hot Tub Time Machine” won’t win any awards, but it gave me a few big laughs, and that’s all I want from a comedy.

It’s even funny enough to land itself at No. 5 on my list of all-time best Time Travel Comedies.

The others are:

4. “ARMY OF DARKNESS”: This follows the classic time-travel story: Someone is lost in time and trying to fight their way back home. In this case the someone is Bruce Campbell at his rip-roaring best as Ash, who is battling dead-ites in medieval times with only his shotgun and his chainsaw to save the day.

An odd blending of an old-fashioned B-movie, dark comedy, horror flick and medieval epic makes “Army of Darkness” a one-of-a-kind, modern day classic and a must see for anyone who cares enough to watch the very best. As Ash would say, “Hail to the king, baby.”

3. “BILL AND TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE”: Keanu Reeves gives the best performance of his career as one half of the slacker/idiot super-duo who are somehow destined to save the planet with their awful music. A time-traveling George Carlin shows up in a phone booth that can take them to any point in history, which they will need to use to pass their history final. Instead of studying, they kidnap Sigmund Freud, Genghis Kahn, Napoleon and Abe Lincoln among others and take them to their high school.

As far as time travel movies go, this one is pretty original.

2. “GROUNDHOG DAY”: Bill Murray is lost in time and trying to find his way back home. The twist is he keeps reliving the same day over and over again. No matter what he does, no matter how he changes events, he always wakes up in the same bed on Groundhog Day and with the same, interminable Sonny & Cher song playing.

The concept is original (or at least it was at the time, though it has since been used in other movies) and Murray in the lead pretty much guarantees you the movie will be funny. But what makes “Groundhog Day” such a classic is how it balances humor with a more philosophical edge, really exploring the premise and making the most out of the characters.

Which leads us the inevitable first-place finisher.

1. “BACK TO THE FUTURE”: This is the one that set the standard, a movie that is funny, charming and cute, while still being smart and heartfelt. Movies like this one don’t come along very often, and I won’t bother saying much more because chances are you’ve already seen this movie several times over. Skip the sequels and stick with the original.

While “Hot Tub Time Machine” isn’t a classic like these other movies, it is still quite funny and worth a rental.

Contact Nate Hensley at Nate@nateflix.net.

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