Hot Tub Time Machine: Disney+’s sci-fi comedy offers nostalgic hit for Gen-Xers

Hot Tub Time Machine (16, 99mins) Directed by Steve Pink ***½

A phone booth, a remote control, a morgue drawer and a US Navy destroyer.

Yes, Hollywood has come up with some odd modes of time travel over the years. And if Robert Zemeckis had got his way, Marty McFly wouldn’t have headed back to the future in a DeLorean, he would have opened a fridge.

The creators of this 2010 science-fiction comedy came up with a much more comfortable and relaxing transportation method, as the rather self-explanatory title suggests.

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Adam (John Cusack), Nick (Craig Robinson) and Lou (Rob Corddry) have been best friends since high school, but in the last few years they have drifted apart and are now collectively miserable.

Insurance salesman Adam is coming to terms with a messy separation, Nick believes his wife is cheating on him and Lou may or may not have intentionally attempted suicide via a running-car-based drunken Motley Crue-sing-a-long in his garage.

Lou’s hospitalisation is the catalyst for the trio, plus Adam’s Second Life-obsessed nephew Jacob (Clark Duke), to make a journey to their favourite teenage haunt Kodiak Valley. Unfortunately, 20 years on it’s not the place they remember. The Silver Peaks Lodge has gone to seed and many businesses have closed. But, determined to try and relive their glory days, the boys down a few drinks and sink into the seemingly innocuous hot tub, not knowing that when they wake up the next morning they really are going to party like it’s 1986.

From fluoro fashion crimes to a 'star-studded' 1980s soundtrack, those of a certain age will find Hot Tub Time Machine an enjoyable blast back to the past.


From fluoro fashion crimes to a ‘star-studded’ 1980s soundtrack, those of a certain age will find Hot Tub Time Machine an enjoyable blast back to the past.

A kind of The Hangover-meets-The Wedding Singer by way of the plethora of time travel movies of the 1980s and ‘90s, Hot Tub Time Machine is a coarse, funny but decidedly unoriginal comedy that heavily relies on lifting ideas from Generation X classics. While Timecop, The Terminator and The Butterfly Effect all get a name check, there are also elements and scenes stolen from the beloved likes of Gremlins (a speech about a horrific childhood incident) and early Cusack movies Sixteen Candles and Better Off Dead.

Unsurprisingly, the most obvious borrowings are from Back to the Future, with fading characters, mother-son meetings, future advice, a life-changing fight and introducing music ahead of its time all providing an audience with a feeling of deja vu. That said, the film-makers have pulled off a masterstroke in the casting of Future’s George McFly, Crispin Glover, as an injury prone bellboy. Always a great physical comedian, he provides some of the comedic highs.

Clark Duke and John Cusack star in Hot Tub Time Machine.


Clark Duke and John Cusack star in Hot Tub Time Machine.

The rest of the cast all have their moments, but their characters spend most of their time bickering, talking smack and realising how miserable their current lives are, and the set pieces just lack the spit, polish and originality of the era’s similarly themed buddy comedy Hangover.

But if it’s ‘80s nostalgia you are after, Hot Tub has it in spades. From fluoro fashion crimes and casual gratuitous nudity (so popular in teen comedies of that decade) to a soundtrack boasting everyone from Cutting Crew, Spandau Ballet, Inxs, New Order and Talking Heads, those of a certain age will find this an enjoyable blast back to the past.

Hot Tub Time Machine is now available to stream on Disney+.

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