Hot Tub Time Machine tells the story of three men (Adam, Lou, Nick) – once best friends, long since separated – who are reunited when one of their number apparently attempts to kill himself in a depressed binge. By way of rehabilitation, the three of them, accompanied by Adam’s geeky nephew (played by Greek’s Clark Duke) travel to the lodge where, in the 80s, they had the best holiday of their lives.
So far so drama, but this is a comedy, and things take an unexpected turn when the four of them get drunk in the hot tub and travel back in time to that very same winter break, filled with youthful vigour and exuberance. This is a film as derivative as it is original, weaving humour from a broad range of sources into a patchwork that is funnier than it has any right to be. A lot of the time it forgets to use its brain (there is a nice idea behind it, despite the B movie trappings) and sinks into lowest common denominator territory – there’s a poo joke in the opening montage and someone vomits on a squirrel – but the chemistry between the foursome often manages to overcome an irksome sense of having seen a lot of it before.
Unlike a lot of buddy comedies, Hot Tub Time Machine chooses not to spend too much of its energy in telling a heart-warming story and opts instead for brief moments of character interspersed with large stretches of hit and miss silliness. The frenetic and almost unrelenting pace means the gags fly by quickly, resulting in a film that will keep you entertained regardless of its missed opportunities.
The film’s concept is purposefully stupid – indeed, when it is raised directly between the characters, Craig Robinson’s Nick Webber gives the camera a knowing look – but that isn’t a fundamental problem. The four leads perform their roles with admirable vigour, propelling their stock characters into more likable territory, though the swift pacing and compact run time gives them little more to do than oaf around. Hot Tub Time Machine won’t change your mind about this type of comedy if it doesn’t appeal to you, but you could do much worse than choosing to see this if comedy is what you’re after.