There is a guy in a bear suit that sort of randomly shows up in Hot Tub Time Machine. He (or maybe she?) never actually has a point. It’s just sort of there, adding to the bizarre, surreal quality the film carries with it.
This is a movie after all about a group of guys going back to their teens/early 20s via hot tub, back into the era of Poison and Red Dawn, both of which play a role here. Hot Tub survives on its nostalgia, and if you think screaming, “Wolverines!” is some sort of comic book or college football reference, you’re going to miss a lot of what is funny here.
It’s not that the film completely relies on ’80s pop culture knowledge to survive. The sheer level of vulgarity on display here is unreal, Rob Corddry and Craig Robinson caught on the losing end of an awkward bet that is best not described in detail. Those not around for the glory… or unglory (?)… of the ’80s are still treated to plenty of crude humor thanks to this raunchy script from Sean Anders (Sex Drive) and Josh Heald.
For all of its sheer idiocy and stupidity, Hot Tub does string together a reasonable plot. Working with both the Terminator and Butterfly Effect of time travel (sort of… actually, forget all of that), the guys work on rekindling past relationships and strengthen their bonds as friends. It just so happens they do this by having loads of sex with hot ’80s chicks, having forks stuck in their eyes, and being beaten up by a group of kids who believe Red Dawn was real. See, you need the power of Grayskull to get it all.
Hot Tub isn’t trying for that strong emotional bond that a lot of recent R-rated comedies go for (like Superbad). The movie loves its absurdity, Craig Robinson breaking the fourth wall as he stares directly at the audience to indicate the group has traveled in a Hot Tub Time Machine. It has fun, and as such, the viewer does too, which is all you can really ask for. That, and weird people in a bear suit apparently.
MGM/Fox deliver an outstanding AVC encode for Hot Tub. This one immediately begins delivering texture from the opening frames. Facial detail is exquisite, resolving pores and any other evident markings without fault. The encode is stable and consistent throughout, few scenes ever losing their grip on the sharpness.
Environments and establishing shots are just as impressive. Moving into the mountain range, the cinematography has a chance to shine, trees resolved deep into the frame at 10:09. The lodge itself, worn down and battered in the present day, reveals spectacular wood texture at 12:40. Sparkling snow is always visible, seemingly down to individual flakes. Clothing textures are outstanding, as is the felt on the pool table as Corddry and Robinson bet on the football game.
Vibrant, rich colors bring out the neon clothes of the era beautifully. The film is slightly tinted warm, not enough to effect flesh tones. In fact, they’re spot on. Black levels are rich, deep, and inky. The image consistently produces depth and dimensionality with no loss of detail. A conversation with Cusak and Lizzy Caplan in limited lighting at 59:40 showcases how well this disc can handle itself.
A bit of chroma noise is evident when Cusak and Robinson reunite early at the hospital, an issue that occasionally creeps back into the frame (Clark Duke’s face at 9:50 for example). Generally, everything is under control, the light grain structure resolved without fault. Some video at the end is part of the source, showing some interlacing and significantly lower-resolution work. The end credits are tailored around a music video from the era, shot appropriately on tape and in a 4×3 frame.
This is a movie that sounds better than you think, mostly for bringing classic ’80s hair metal into the era of uncompressed audio. Immediately from the opening credits, this DTS-HD effort shines, blaring music into all channels with excellent fidelity. Multiple concerts, including Poison live at 40:09 are great, even if it serves as more of a background event. A concert delivered by Craig Robinson’s character around 1:09:00 is awesome too, with instruments wonderfully distinct and the crowd lively.
The subwoofer becomes especially aggressive during the time travel scenes, the first at 18:52. A nice jolt of thunder delivers a satisfactory thump on the low-end. Likewise, the surrounds are hefty, generating a swirling effect that moves through all channels. Their final trip is even better (1:24:00), aided by lightning, and creating a convincing sound field… assuming a movie can convince you a hot tub can travel through time simply via audio.
Dialogue reproduction is smooth and crisp, nothing less being acceptable. Balance is fine, the various musical interludes in check with the character interactions. This is a hard track to hate.
This review is based on a rental exclusive since no screener copy was yet available. When a retail version is obtained, this review will be updated.