The Netflix Sci-Fi Time Travel Adventure Still Delivers After Over A Decade

By Robert Scucci | Published

More often than not, throwback parody movies fail to stick the landing. Hot Tub Time Machine, on the other hand, not only hits the slopes hard, but leans so heavily into the films that inspired it that you can’t help but revel in its heavy-handed use of tried-and-true tropes. Making playful callbacks to films like Better Off Dead, Red Dawn, The Karate Kid, and Back to the Future, this slap-stick gross-out comedy is unrelenting in its delivery and has a legacy of its own while paying homage to so many great films that came before it. 

Hot Tub Time Machine Is Better Than It Sounds

John Cusack’s Adam Yates takes center stage in Hot Tub Time Machine, and we’re introduced to a group of depressed middle-aged men who want to relive their glory days. We’re not saying that being middle-aged is inherently depressing, but a quick look at the present-day lives of Adam, Nick (Craig Robinson), and Lou (Rob Corddry) will paint a pretty bleak picture. Facing breakups, soul-crushing jobs, and suicide attempts, the group of friends makes the decision to visit the Kodiak Valley Ski Resort to rekindle the youthful vigor that they all once possessed.

It Loves The 80s, It Mocks The 80s

Adam’s nephew, Jacob (Clark Duke), tags along on the trip and introduces the primary source of conflict in Hot Tub Time Machine. When the titular hot tub gets doused with a highly potent energy drink, it breaks the space-time continuum, and they find themselves at the same resort as it appeared in 1986. This callback to John Cusack’s Better Off Dead brings us to the ski slopes, but there’s a catch. 

Back To The Future Rules Apply

Like Back to the Future, Hot Tub Time Machines narrative reveals that if Adam, Nick, and Lou fail to recreate the fateful evening that set them on the trajectory that leads to their present-day lives, Jacob will cease to exist. As desperately as they all want to change the past, they reluctantly subject themselves to humiliation, physical harm, and incredibly awkward situations that they’d rather avoid.

Rises Above The Silly Premise

As stupid as the premise sounds, Hot Tub Time Machine works. The plot is made all the more effective because we see the protagonists as adults trying to figure out their dilemmas through avatars of their younger selves. And there’s something incredibly satisfying when Nick takes a page from the Back to the Future playbook to suggest that he wrote “Let’s Get it Started” by the Black Eyed Peas. 

In other words, Marty McFly isn’t the only time traveler who can get away with blatant plagiarism.

Updates 80 Rom-Coms

Hot Tub Time Machine takes a ridiculous premise, borrows heavily from several iconic movies, and pays proper tribute without ever insulting the source material. By taking inspiration from 80s rom-coms and re-framing it for a modern audience, we’re left with a legendary parody film that is a modern classic in its own right. 

The Cast Understood The Assignment

Critics gave Hot Tub Time Machine generally favorable reviews, and this experiment in time travel cinema garnered a 64 percent critical rating against a 56 percent audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. Though critics acknowledge that the movie has a “flagrantly silly script,” they quickly point out that Cusack, Robinson, Corddry, and Duke knew the assignment and elevated the premise with their performances. 

Hot Tub Time Machine is lightning in a bottle (or an energy drink in a hot tub), but we can’t say the same for its ill-fated sequel, which was both a critical and commercial failure. 

Good Dumb Fun

At the end of the day, Hot Tub Time Machine is good, dumb fun. You’ll probably be disappointed if you go into it expecting something entirely original. But if you’re ready to hop on the nostalgia train and revisit the glory days of the raunchy 80s comedy, you can stream it on Netflix and have a great time.