Jacuzzi does it

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IHot Tub Time Ma­chine, Sta­dium 14, 1.5 chiles

com­edy, rated R, Re­gal As some­one who suf­fers from a bad back as well as from crip­pling re­grets over de­ci­sions I made in my early 20s, I could re­ally use a good soak in a hot tub time ma­chine — prefer­ably with Ben Franklin, Greta Garbo, and Os­car Wilde. Like Agent Mul­der on The X-Files, I want to be­lieve — in a hot tub time ma­chine. It’s plau­si­ble enough, I reckon. The last time I was at Ten Thou­sand Waves, I could have sworn I saw peo­ple who just ar­rived there from the 1960s.

So I en­tered Hot Tub Time Ma­chine with a se­ries of ques­tions. How does it work? Is it a chem­i­cal re­ac­tion in the wa­ter? Does the amount of time you travel re­late to the tem­per­a­ture? Plas­tic or acrylic shell? Un­for­tu­nately, the movie doesn’t delve into the de­tails. All the film­mak­ers of­fer by way of ex­pla­na­tion is that a power drink from Rus­sia spills on the tub’s con­trol panel and zap! We’re back to the past. How dare they skimp on the hard sci­ence?

In­stead, they tell the story of four losers who head off to a fa­vorite ski re­sort of their youth to briefly climb out of their cur­rent ruts. The re­sort turns out to be a sym­bol for their lives: it’s empty,

con­tin­ued from Page 44 run-down, and has seen much bet­ter days. The first 20 min­utes present us with a cock­tail of gross-out hu­mor that al­ter­nately in­volves dog poop, urine, and pro­jec­tile vomit, and mixes in a se­ri­ous sui­cide at­tempt.

None­the­less, I was en­gaged most of the time. Di­rec­tor Steve Pink and the three cred­ited screen­writ­ers present a dif­fer­ent take on the usual time-travel high jinks. The four men find them­selves oc­cu­py­ing the bodies of their younger selves dur­ing one wild week­end in the mid-1980s. Even though they are still por­trayed by the older ac­tors (don’t ask), and one of the four ac­tors was born in the mid-80s (don’t ask), they now have a chance to re­live an im­por­tant week­end from their youth. Will they make the same choices?

John Cu­sack, Craig Robin­son, Clark Duke, and Rob Corddry play the lead quar­tet. Cu­sack goes a long way to­ward sav­ing the movie, as he’s an ac­tor we like to fol­low. Robin­son never quite sum­mons the charm he eas­ily ex­udes in TV’s The Of­fice and movies like Knocked Up and Pineap­ple

Ex­press. Duke is an ef­fec­tive wiseacre who has lit­tle to do in this film. And Corddry, well, maybe he was mis­cast and maybe the part was poorly writ­ten, but I’ve rarely seen an ac­tor work so hard for so few laughs.

Pro­duc­tion de­signer Bob Ziem­bicki does an ad­mirable job of cre­at­ing an at­mos­phere that isn’t quite of the 1980s but rather of bad 1980s come­dies like and

(which, in­ci­den­tally, starred Cu­sack). I’m guess­ing his crew was work­ing with a very lim­ited bud­get, and it crafted a look that isn’t quite au­then­tic but some­how works within its con­text.

The film’s sup­port­ing cast is shored up by women who look good in hair­spray and hot-pink span­dex but don’t have many lines. Crispin Glover plays a bizarre one-armed bell­hop who is the cen­ter of some taste­less hu­mor. Chevy Chase, who may be one of the few peo­ple out­side of the Repub­li­can Party who re­ally wishes it still were the 1980s, plays a mys­ti­cal handy­man who helps re­pair the hot tub and get ev­ery­body home.

But do they go? And do they learn from the ex­pe­ri­ence and change their ways? Can you re­ally change your ways? This movie never quite finds the mes­sage it wants to con­vey — right down to the end­ing that tells us that friend­ship is what brings hap­pi­ness while show­ing us that money is what ac­tu­ally does the trick. I’d worry about spoil­ing it for you, but I’m still hop­ing some­one spoils it for me. What was the point of this?

The point, silly, is to make a movie called Hot Tub Time Ma­chine. And I get it. I could never be a stu­dio ex­ec­u­tive, be­cause I’d green­light ev­ery sin­gle script that came in with a ti­tle like Snakes on a Plane or Hot Tub

Time Ma­chine. What can I say? I’m a sucker for a good ti­tle. Aren’t there enough ti­tles like Green Zone and

Edge of Dark­ness out there al­ready? Un­for­tu­nately, I wouldn’t last very long as an ex­ec­u­tive, be­cause th­ese movies with out­stand­ing ti­tles al­most al­ways seem to come with a se­vere case of buyer’s re­morse. Ten min­utes into the pic­ture and “This is a great idea!” be­comes “Why did I think this was a great idea?” And brother, there is no hot tub time ma­chine to take you back to just be­fore you shelled out money for those tick­ets. I know. I’ve looked into it.

Soak and ye shall find: Chevy Chase

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