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Hot Tub Time Machine -- Film Review

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"Hot Tub Time Machine" is a loud, disjointed and not terribly funny comedy, which probably is what one expects with a title like that. The unfortunate thing is, it didn't need to be.

The film stars John Cusack and was written and directed by Steve Pink, who as co-writer and co-producer of "High Fidelity" and "Grosse Pointe Blank" was intimately involved in two of Cusack's better movies. But instead of going for the sophisticated wit of those two films, Cusack (acting as producer here as well) and Pink aim young and down-market.

Which probably means a decent weekend in mall multiplexes that attract a young, undiscriminating crowd, but even in those venues the film will fade quickly. "Hot Tub" looks more like a DVD rental and certainly no savior for beleaguered MGM.

As the title indicates, four males pile into a ski resort hot tub for a night of heavy partying, then wake up in the year 1986. Cue jokes about the awful clothes and hairdos of that era along with a soundtrack of golden oldies. And, of course, the ramifications of going back in time so you can maybe change your life and career trajectory.

Lord knows these guys are losers with bleak futures. Cusack's Adam never has accomplished anything, and his girlfriend just dumped him. Craig Robinson's hen-pecked and cuckolded Nick never followed his dream of a music career. Rob Corddry's Lou is a suicidal alcoholic. Oh yes, the fourth is Clark Duke's Jacob, Adam's video game-obsessed nephew who wasn't even born in 1986.

The question confronting the three men experiencing deja vu is, do they change the future or not? The fourth one, who discovers his sexually adventurous mom (Collette Wolfe) among the Winterfest 1986 partygoers, definitely wants the men to follow the script so that he will be born.

Whatever comic possibilities this situation held, however, get buried in an avalanche of sorry potty-humor gags and a frantic, let's-try-anything-for-a-laugh jokes. There even is one strange misfired bit about an NFL playoff game on TV where Lou remembers the outcome and so bets heavily. But it ends differently. How can that be?

Unlike "Grosse Point Blank," which also allows its hero to confront his past, such a thing never really happens here. Each life trajectory apparently got changed by a tiny miscalculation or case of bad timing. It never has anything fundamentally to do with either their character or life choices.

Two comedy veterans, Chevy Chase and Crispin Glover, wander through the scenes with amusing running gags involving an enigmatic hot tub repair man and a one-armed bellhop who in 1986 has both arms but appears about to lose one at every turn.

Tech credits on this Canadian-based production are solid, especially the over-the-top period costumes and sets.

Opens: Friday, March 26 (MGM)
Production: MGM and United Artists present a New Crime production
Cast: John Cusack, Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson, Clark Duke, Crispin Glover, Lizzy Caplan, Sebastian Stan, Chevy Chase, Collette Wolfe
Director: Steve Pink
Screenwriters: Josh Heald, Anders & John Morris
Story by: Josh Heald
Producers: John Cusack, Grace Loh, Matt Moore
Executive producer: Michael Nelson
Director of photography: Jack Green
Production designer: Bob Ziembicki
Music: Christophe Beck
Costume designer: Dayna Pink
Editor: George Folsey Jr., James Thomas
Rated R, 98 minutes