To World's Surprise, 'Hot Tub Time Machine' Wins Over Critics

Hey, this is actually funny!

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Few expected Hot Tub Time Machine, a movie about four friends who get drunk in a hot tub and travel back in time to the 1980s, to be anything but an amusing fiasco. But as the reviews pour in, a surprising trend has developed: Critics love the movie.

Okay, they may not exactly love it. But reviewers are laughing--not just ironically--at the movie's crude humor, '80s allusions, and absolute irreverence. Film critics, including the New York Times' discering A.O. Scott, appreciated it enough to write reviews that make funny standalone reading.

  • Enjoy With a Cocktail The Newark Star-Ledger's Stephen Whitty gives the movie a unique stamp of approval. "But even if this isn’t this year’s 'Hangover' — as some blurbing bozo is guaranteed to announce soon, if he hasn’t already — it is this year’s funniest film so far," he declares. "And it’s probably even funnier after a couple of Bartles & Jaymes."
  • "Startlingly" Good  Chuckling at the "affable and hilarious" flick, Brian Orndorf urges viewers to stick with the film through the plodding opening. "For those who elect to ride out the booze-soaked, forked-tongued storm, they receive a startlingly alert, good-natured, borderline poignant slapstick comedy that makes the most out of a one-joke premise," he promises.
  • A Little Sad, a Lot Funny Arguably the most surprising thumbs-up comes from the one of the NYT's leading critics. Though he contends "it’s kind of sad that it’s so much fun," the sophisticated A.O. Scott is taken by the movie's embrace of excess.
Steve Pink, the director, and a trio of dementedly scholarly screenwriters (Josh Heald, Sean Anders and John Morris) load up every scene with more jokes than necessary — visual allusions, verbal flourishes and plain old fall-on-your-face slapstick — but their excess proves to be a canny strategy. The picture moves so quickly and crazily, swerving and skidding and doubling back for seconds, that minor lapses in wit are immediately overtaken by major (and therefore hilarious) lapses in taste.
  • Get Your Bro On  At Inland Empire Weekly, Amy Nicholson reports the movie is perfect for its target audience: dudes. "It's a bro-down, and every second has been calibrated for maximum bro-fficiency," she laughs. "A lazy beat? Projectile vomit on a squirrel!"
  • Let's Salute the Real Genius Here  The most over-the-top review of this over-the-top film comes courtesy of This Recording's Lauren Bans, whose review includes gems like "at least now hot tubs can claim to be something other than a regretfully-baked bacterial clafoutis." Bans sums up the movie with a salute to its "creative inspiration."
I mean this next sentence as the ultimate compliment: Hot Tub Time Machine is the greatest execution of an idea that came to someone who was high on the marijuana drugs.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.