Those of us who claim membership in the “John Hughes generation” have a soft spot for the cheesy teen flicks of our youth: We just can’t quit you, Anthony Michael Hall--y geeks and James Spader--ish jerks. That same nostalgia extends not only to the Oscars obit committee (a seven-star salute to the late Breakfast Club auteur? really?), but to the actors who made their bones in these kitschy goofs as well. Really, who’s better equipped to conduct a tour of our glory days than Lloyd Dobler? A genre icon second only to Her Ringwaldness, John Cusack’s presence in this extended memory-lane riff provides an affectionate edge to a plot that’s pure ’80s cinema illogic. After his middle-aged sad sack and some loser buddies (Corddy, Robinson) spill an energy drink in a ski-lodge hot tub, they wake up in 1986. Hair will be poufy, fashions will be neon and geometric, and safety dances will be danced. In an ideal world, theaters would hand out Bartles & Jaymes and show this on a battered Betamax tape.
Like the Scream series, Hot Tub Time Machine is a cake-and-eat-it-too experience; you get both a vintage Brat Pack comedy, albeit one regrettably drenched in post-Hangover raunch, and an ongoing metacommentary at the same time. (The way that the preppy villain patriotically deadpans “America!” is pure Reagan-era piss-take genius.) You can treat the movie’s devolution into sheer ridiculousness as either an homage to that era’s high-concept absurdism or just whatever-dude laziness, but watching Cusack revive his trench-coated cool-misfit persona will stir fortysomething hearts. We’d hoist a boom box in his honor if we weren’t so misty-eyed.—David Fear
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