"Hot Tub Time Machine" doesn't have much in the way of plot or characters. It barely has a concept. What it does have is a title so dumb that it sounds like one of those fake movies you see advertised between skits on "Saturday Night Live."
Except this is a real movie. About a hot tub. That also functions as a time machine.
It even stars real actors (or at least one, John Cusack, surrounded by character players no doubt happy to collect a Hollywood-size paycheck).
I wonder if H.G. Wells is spinning in his grave.
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The problem is that, once the semi-amusing buzz of the title wears off, there's little left to hang your hat on here. "Hot Tub Time Machine" winks at any number of '80s movies, from time-travel comedies such as "Back to the Future" and "Peggy Sue Got Married" to teen sex romps such as "Hot Dog: The Movie" and "Revenge of the Nerds."
But it does so much winking that it never develops a personality of its own. Nor is it especially funny. When the first two gags involve excrement, you know you're in trouble.
There isn't much of a plot to summarize, but here goes: Adam (John Cusack), Lou (Rob Corddry) and Nick (Craig Robinson) were once close friends, now going through some tough times. Adam's wife has just left him. Lou ended up in the hospital after what might have been a suicide attempt. Nick fears his wife is cheating on him.
With Adam's nephew Jacob (Clark Duke) in tow, they take a weekend trip to a ski lodge where they spent many memorable weekends. They step inside the hot tub and - shazam! - it's 1986, with neon colors, bad perms and repeated references to "Miami Vice."
"Hot Tub Time Machine" is cinematic comfort food for male moviegoers of a certain age: Wasn't life so much easier, it asks, when Poison was the biggest band on the radio (the glam rockers make a cameo), and when the possibilities for the future seemed limitless?
But as the men wander through the ski lodge trying not to screw with the space-time continuum, the movie never develops a core of either sweetness or humanity, like men-behaving-crudely classics "There's Something About Mary" or "American Pie."
"Hot Tub" - directed by Steve Pink and written by Josh Heald, Sean Anders and John Morris - just feels like a cynical attempt to cash in on the crowd that propelled "The Hangover" to blockbuster.
Corddry and Robinson at least appear to be having a good time, but Cusack is charmless and petulant, wearing a fixed expression that suggests he is really annoyed with his agent for booking him in this movie.
As the mysterious hot tub repairman, Chevy Chase putters around the edges of the story. I'm guessing whatever part he might have once had was left on the cutting-room floor.
The primary bright spot is the wonderfully weird Crispin Glover, who plays a guy on the verge of dismemberment with uncommon good cheer. He seems to be in on his own private joke - one much funnier than anything in this movie.