I was first introduced to the “Theatre of the Absurd” in a high school philosophy class. This sect of plays which were mostly written by European playwrights in the mid-1900s was considered a declaration against realism and the concept of how to make a “great” play. Never have I imagined returning to a so-called “Theatre of the Absurd” in the form of a Steve Pink film, but as I sat in the cushioned seat of the expansive Regal Theater that I visit constantly, I was definitely about to witness something absurd — even if it was totally expected.
Pink, whose filmography contains a producer credit for I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With and a screen-writer credit for the John Cusack great High Fidelity, channels the nonsensical direction of Samuel Beckett and Harold Pinter in his latest endeavor Hot Tub Time Machine, however, the film never exits the realm of absurdity and remains as the name suggests — incredibly stupid.
The film follows the story of Lou (Rob Corddry), Adam (John Cusack), Nick (Craig Robinson), and Jacob (Clark Duke). Lou is a raging alcoholic; Adam’s girlfriend leaves him and takes most of his possessions; Nick is forced to work a dead-end job; and Jacob throws his life away for a video game. All of these characters are in the middle of a mid-life crisis and when Lou is sent to the hospital – they decide to relive their pasts by visiting a ski resort where they spent their time during the late 1980s. It’s no surprise, but after a long night of copious drinking, these four men discover that the ski resort’s hot tub not only offers a place for male bonding but also for time travel.
They discover themselves back in 1986 and must act out the events of the past or the future might be forever changed — of course, nothing goes according to plan and mayhem ensues.
With the exception of Cusack’s character, the film’s protagonists are more obnoxious than a Poison concert and less likable than a pompous ski-resort local. Cusack who doesn’t seem to have an uncharismatic bone in his body lends an excellent performance which allows his character to function as a loveable homage to the sappy yet enjoyable romantic comedies of the 80s.
As for the rest of the cast, Craig Robinson, Clark Duke, and Rob Corddry do share shining moments but for the majority of the time they remain whiny and at times entirely brutish.
Hot Tub Time Machine doesn’t try to win over critics through heart-felt drama or sophisticated comedy, it instead relies on sexual innuendo and gross-out gags to overcome its predictable story-telling and thus secures it’s place among Pink’s target audience — young men who are preferably drunk and under the influence of some illegal narcotic — and to fully enjoy this movie you either need to be in this specific demographic or you need to locate a hot tub time machine of your own.