Nick's the closest thing to a moral compass in these murky waters. He cares about being married, loves his wife despite her faults and feels guilty for cheating on her once he's in the past—even though his friends keep telling him that in 1986 she's only 9 years old and they haven't met yet.
In '86, Nick, Adam and Lou navigate some of their previous poor choices a little better the second time around. For example, Adam decides not to break up with his girlfriend, hopeful that she's the one after all. Nick and Adam try to support Lou when he's in need—which is most of the time. Lou discovers he's a father and says he wants to be a good one.
April challenges Adam to see that life can be astonishing if he would only stop second-guessing his choices. (But you have to listen to her words without scrutinizing her actions for her ideas to remain positive.) Adam recognizes and wants to change the fact that in the present he's a self-centered, messed up person.
Adam says the "wheel of fate" has dumped Lou back into his defeated 1986 life. Destiny vs. free choice is briefly alluded to. April wonders whether "the universe" will reunite her with Adam, and Adam says he'll let it surprise him. A shaman is mentioned.
At the top of this review, there's a caution given about the content it deals with. I'll repeat it here for emphasis: Sex comedies continue to dole out more and more sex. And this one's a doozy.
Seconds into the opening credits, moviegoers are shown breast nudity and hard-core partying. Oral sex is a standard topic of conversation and its given visual tribute several times. Having lost a bet, Lou is forced—at gunpoint—to perform this particular sex act on Nick. His pants down, Nick faints at the idea of it, but not before the movie makes an explicit show of Lou's "preparation." Later, in a bathroom, Lou covers his face with liquid soap, convincing Nick that it's something else entirely.
Sleazy doesn't even begin to describe the part of the plot devoted to Jacob's moment of conception—which he eventually witnesses. Rowdy and loud, Lou has sex with Adam's sister while his buddies watch part of the act and hear the rest of it. The camera catches most of the unambiguous movements and sounds. (A sheet covers her body.) Nick, too, has sex, and the woman's breasts are shown as she bounces on him in a Jacuzzi. Other women are also seen topless.
Masturbation, manual stimulation, premature ejaculation, erectile dysfunction, orgasms, and sexual organ size and color are referenced in the dialogue. Lou calls an escort service and asks—in graphically descriptive terms—for a woman to have sex with all four of them. Later, in preparation for a threesome, Lou, while nude, tries to teach Jacob how to keep an erection. (Jacob refuses.) It's not the only time Lou shows up naked. (He's seen from the rear or side.)
Adam says he "swapped virginities" with a girlfriend, whom we see in 1986 wearing a bra and panties. Rape, porn and homosexuality are joked about. Male and female genitalia are obscenely and frequently brought up in conversations. Nick obscenely rants about sex acts while speaking to his future wife on the phone. (She's 9 years old at this point, remember.)
Lou talks about the fact he'd be great at killing himself if he really wanted to do so—and it seems like he does want to when he and the others ski off a cliff and tumble down the mountain, smashing into all manner of obstacles for "comic" effect. He ends up in the hospital after an attempt to gas himself with carbon monoxide. Afterwards he talks about other ways he might end his life.
An ongoing "joke" revolves around a man who's destined to lose his arm but navigates a slew of near misses first. A chain saw he's tossing into the air almost severs it. As does an elevator door. Finally, he's hit by a snowplow and the arm snaps off, blood spurting. Lou cheers.
Adam's girlfriend stabs him near his eye with a fork, causing him to bleed. A very drunken Lou ends up on top of a roof, off of which he and the rest of the gang start to slide. Several fistfights break out, leaving Lou or others punched and/or kicked to the ground and resulting in bloodied faces. A man threatens to cut someone open and defecate inside him.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Alcohol might as well be at the top of Hot Tub's cast list; it gets that much screen time. Adam drinks when his girlfriend leaves him. Lou drinks while driving—and captaining a yacht.
Partyers also smoke bongs and cigars. Lou's so addicted to substance-related highs that he resorts to asking Jacob if he has any prescription drugs so he can use them as suppositories. Cocaine is snorted. Adam smokes pot and gobbles mushrooms when he gets depressed. A Russian energy drink is said to contain ingredients that are illegal in the United States.
Other Negative Elements
True friends should always be there for one another—even if that means utterly debasing yourself and tossing aside your very last shred of morality to do it. So says Hot Tub Time Machine.
Lou encourages Nick to cheat on his wife. And he says he wants to break into a school, steal a car or break some sort of law because he'd rather live than be bored. He lies, too, big surprise. When the guys talk about a box full of admissible criminal evidence that Adam keeps hidden from a past escapade, Jacob asks if it holds a fetus.
After extracting keys from a dog's backside, Nick tosses the dung-covered ring to the owner. In the hospital, Lou pulls a catheter out of his body and sprays the room with it. Voluminous, projectile vomiting splatters the screen twice. Lou urinates, loudly, twice. A decomposing animal is found in a filthy hot tub.
Lou uses his knowledge of the future to bet on a football game.
The Rotten Tomatoes website claims the consensus on Hot Tub Time Machine is that its "flagrantly silly script—and immensely likable cast—make up for most of its flaws." People are calling the movie "hilarious" and "so stupid it's genius!"
There's only one word in all of that that's true, though: stupid. And it can't begin to tell the whole tawdry tale. Director Steve Pink didn't just cross the line on this one, he pole-vaulted over it.
Why? Is it just simple ignorance?
"I don't know where that line is. I have no idea," Pink said in an interview posted on iesb.net.
Or is it something worse? Something like a constant contagious desire to make the next sex comedy raunchier than the last. In that same interview, which is too foul to reprint much of here, Pink cited There's Something About Mary and American Pie as license for creating such a sexual cesspool. But they're probably more like goads. You can plot the points on the downward spiral from Porky's to Pie to The 40-Year-Old Virgin to Superbad to Zack and Miri Make a Porno … to Hot Tub Time Machine.
A whole lot of folks haven't noticed this yet, by the way. Or maybe they don't care. A colleague related this encounter he had at a recent screening for the new Miley Cyrus movie: A mom with a 9-year-old in tow told him that her daughter wanted to see Hot Tub. Mom didn't think she should say OK, but she really wasn't sure. The R rating apparently wasn't enough to tip the scales. Nor was the raunchy trailer. Here's hoping this review does the trick. For her daughter's sake as well as for the sake of thousands of others.
Where's the bottom? Sadly, there isn't one. "Who can know" the depths of the "desperately wicked" heart? asks Jeremiah. No one. Not even Lou, Nick, Adam and Jacob. But in their case it's not for lack of trying.