There has been a crop of great comedies in the last couple of years (and just as many horrible ones), thanks to the success of people like Judd Apatow and his band of repeat players, as well as comedy teams like Will Ferrell and Adam McKay. These comedies range from the outrageous, to the vulgar, to the just plain stupid-funny. Hot Tub Time Machine feels like the culmination of all of these styles into one perfect piece of work.
The film has an ensemble cast, and starts John Cusack as Adam, Rob Corddry as Lou, Craig Robinson as Nick, and Clark Duke as Jacob, Adam's nephew, who also lives in his basement. The three friends, Adam, Nick, and Lou haven't seen much of each other in the past couple of years, not since being best friends in high school and, presumably, through their twenties. When Lou attempts suicide, Adam and Nick decide that they need to all go on a little vacation to their teenage hotspot, a winter ski village. This is the location of several pivotal points in their lives, and they want to go and recapture the magic in order to bring Lou back to his senses. They end up bringing along Jacob because he has nowhere else to go. When they get to their ski resort, though, they find out its gone down hill, and everything is in shambles. Making the best of it, they decide to get into one of the few working things at the lodge - the hot tub. But when someone spills a can of Russian energy drink on the controls, the hot tub turns into a time machine. Now the group have to work through the one night that meant the most to all of them, without changing anything, so they can get back to their lives in the present. But, what if you had a second chance to change everything, for the better?
Hot Tub Time Machine is hilarious. The premise is so ridiculous that you just have to laugh. It is vulgar, and some of those moments are really funny, but what really pulls the film together its self awareness. It knows it's ridiculous and it totally plays to all of that. Cusack, Robinson, Corddry, and Duke all walk that fine line between trying to play serious characters and just letting it all loose and going to the very edges of stupidity. The film does feel like a brother to the long list of films that came before it (Superbad, 40 Year Old Virgin, any of the Will Ferrell/Adam McKay films), but it also feels like it carves out its own little piece of territory for itself.