Slippery Slope

John Cusack returns to the '80s in the crass yet funny 'Hot Tub'

A movie in which John Cusack hops into a hot-tub time machine and travels back to 1986, where he must don ski gear and deal with relationship problems while tripping on mushrooms?

Oh yeah, sign me up.

Hot Tub Time Machine stars a game Cusack as Adam, a depressed insurance salesman who conspires with friends Nick and Lou (Craig Robinson and Rob Corddry) to revisit a ski lodge where they once shared their glory days. They bring along Adam's awkward nephew, Jacob (the ever-funny Clark Duke), and are set for a weekend of hard-core partying—only to discover that their beloved place has turned into a dump. They soldier on, and jump into a mysteriously reinvigorated hot tub which inexplicably transports them back nearly 2 1/2 decades.

The boys, not knowing they have traveled through time, suit up for a day of skiing, which brings to mind Cusack's Better Off Dead. The wardrobes of their fellow skiers (leg warmers, big hair) make them suspicious, and a mirror reveals them as their younger selves.

While the men are occupying younger bodies, Jacob looks his normal age. He occasionally blinks and fades out, because his presence in '86 threatens his own existence.

The boys pledge to repeat their steps from the past to avoid messing up the future with the butterfly effect. Unfortunately, they prove that history can't repeat itself—and start screwing things up royally.

The film works as a mega-vulgar Back to the Future for the new millennium. Heck, it even has Crispin Glover (Future's George McFly) in a recurring role as a bellhop employed by the ski resort in both time periods. There's a wonderful, sick joke running throughout the film involving his character.

There's an insane exuberance that permeates this kooky cinematic endeavor, from its goofy plot to its disgusting sight gags. It's another in a recent run of great R-rated comedies that include the Judd Apatow films and The Hangover. Corddry and Robinson get nice chances to shine; they share a moment in a bathroom that should become a sight-gag legend.

Continuing his unlikely resurgence, Chevy Chase shows up as a mystical hot-tub repairman who seems to know that magic is at play, but he refuses to totally tip his hat. It's good to see Chase in a movie that doesn't have some stupid dog or "Vacation" in the title. Collette Wolfe, who was absolutely adorable as Seth Rogen's secret admirer in Observe and Report, is an obnoxious howl as Adam's sister and Jacob's mom.

The mid-to-late '80s were, of course, Cusack's original playground for stardom, with films like The Sure Thing and Better Off Dead (1985), One Crazy Summer (1986) and Say Anything ... (1989). It's my guess that director Steve Pink had the time of his life putting this one together. There's an obvious love for the '80s at play.

Hot Tub Time Machine isn't the first movie to find an excuse for Cusack to visit '86. The ingenious Grosse Pointe Blank saw his professional assassin visiting his '86 high school reunion and killing somebody with a pen (in a nice nod to Say Anything). Hot Tub also features some nice visual nods to Cusack's Lloyd Dobler persona.

There have been persistent rumors of a Back to the Future remake. Well, this is basically a partial remake, with some awesome dick jokes thrown in for good measure. It's also a thinly veiled homage to the continuing and past brilliance of Cusack. Long live Lloyd Dobler!