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Review: 'Hot Tub Time Machine' funny but no 'Hangover'

| Thursday, March 25, 2010

"Hot Tub Time Machine's" title may say it all. But just in case it doesn't, here's an alternative — "Back to The Hangover."

A sloppy, raucous, time travel farce in the grown-men-gone-wild "Hangover" style, it's a surprisingly satisfying, if not exactly "LMAO," riot.

Nick (Craig Robinson) works at a dog grooming parlor, 'Sup Dawg.' But back in the day, he had a band.

Adam (John Cusack) just got dumped. Again. He's a lonely insurance agent, but once upon a time, he had friends.

And Lou (Rob Corddry) has become a "raging alcoholic," a guy whose life is so trapped in the past that he's hospitalized after jamming out to hair metal in his vintage Trans Am in his garage — nearly asphyxiating himself. He used to be the life of the party, "Lou-cipher, aka Violator."

Lou's carbon monoxide moment forces all of them to ask "What happened to us?"

"We were young," Adam whines. "We had momentum. We were winning."

They resolve to recapture past glory by making a road trip to the ski lodge of their youth, reviving Lou with a little snow and hedonism. Kodiak Valley is now a dump, the bellhop (Crispin Glover, a hoot) now an embittered, one-armed jerk.

But a short circuit in a hot tub changes everything — the hair, the clothes, the "Alf" playing on the TV in the background. The male-bonders have landed back in their alleged heyday, the '80s. Adam's nerdy nephew (Clark Duke of "Sex Drive") is the one to figure it out, because "I write 'Stargate' FAN fiction!"

What follows is a hit-or-miss riff on a decade that has never provoked the sort of fond nostalgia that the '50s, 60s or '70s did. As Cusack's Adam mutters, "Reagan. And AIDS. I HATE this decade!"

But as they struggle to take what they know of time travel from bad movies ("The Butterfly Effect" is a point of reference), they discover where they went wrong, the details their memories got wrong, how they let each other down, how their "momentum" changed.

There are some big laughs (Robinson lands most of them), a few great running gags (How Glover's character lost his arm) and the "Back to the Future" sweet moments of reflection mostly work. It's not "The Hangover," but at least this "Hot Tub" won't have you hating yourself in the morning.

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