When Hot Tub Time Machine was released not as expected, or warming up

Posted by Zotta Rendevouz

Readers who wanted this column to examine it attempted to describe it. It was suggested that this was another "idiot comedy" (a film that is supposed to be funny because the main characters are completely stupid), or that it was akin to a Kevin Smith film, or that it was in the same category as Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure and their subsequent Bogus Journey, or absurdist like Bender's Big Score.

It proved to be none of those things. It was vulgar, crass, and profane, deserving of its "R" rating, but beneath the nudity, sex, and drug use was a movie clever and serious, and at times uproariously funny, about three men who like Peggy Sue return to a moment in their youth which was a turning point in their lives, and who thus have the opportunity to turn in different directions. Get past the excessive profanity and preoccupation with sex and drugs, and you have a good movie. There are a couple rather blatant sexual encounters, but these are not gratuitous sex tacked onto the story so much as integral moments within it.

The available DVD contains both the theatrical version and an "unrated" longer version. It is the policy of this series to analyze only theatrical versions of theatrically-released films, and thus no further mention will be made of the extended version, which this reviewer has not seen and has no intention of viewing. Footage lands on the cutting room floor for many reasons that have nothing to do with time constraints, and a longer version is rarely a better one.

The set-up for our story revolves around three men who were best of friends upon graduating high school in the eighties when they took a trip to the then-booming ski resort Kodiak Valley. We glimpse their discontent with their current lives, the walls that have separated them from each other, and then Lou suffers from carbon monoxide poisoning in what could easily have been either an accident or a clever suicide attempt, and the old friends Adam and Nick whom he never sees appear at his hospital bedside with the idea of going back to the resort to reconnect with each other. They take Adam's sister's son Jacob, father unknown, who was probably conceived at that resort when they were there twenty years before, and check into the room they had then. The resort is in serious decay, the town collapsing, and the accommodations daunting as the one-armed bellhop with a chip on his shoulder the size of Buffalo delivers them to the room, but once the hot tub is working they climb in, get terribly drunk, and spill Chernobly, a Russian beverage containing illegal ingredients, into the circuitry. This launches their journey, as the next morning they are not only back in the resort they remember, but back Quantum Leap-style in their young bodies living their previous lives. With the electronics shorted on the hot tub, they need the assistance of a mysterious repairman to get them back to the future, and meanwhile struggle with the issues of whether they should or should not change the past.

The story continues, and the time travel elements are confused and baffling. It is to those we will look in the series ahead.