Science fiction and comedy don't usually mix too well, but the upcoming sci-fi comedy Hot Tub Time Machine tries to reverse that trend with a movie about a group of friends who travel back to 1986 in the title device. To sell the satire, the movie enlists the help of real-life '80s icons such as John Cusack, Chevy Chase and Back to the Future's Crispin Glover.
"This was a joke going back from the [writer's] college days in the '90s," Rob Corddry told a group of reporters last weekend in Lake Tahoe, Nev. "Josh Heald said he was going to write a movie called Hot Tub Time Machine. One day he just decided to write it."
Corddry plays Lou, a late-30s loser whose life is in the pits when he nearly kills himself in his Camaro head-banging to Motley Crue in his garage. His longtime pals Adam (Cusack) and Nick (Craig Robinson) decide to take him on a little getaway. Along with Adam's nephew Jacob (Clark Duke), they head to the ski resort town of Kodiak Valley, where they spent spring break as teens. But things have changed a lot over the past quarter century, and the hotel is now a dilapidated pit. Hoping to make the best of things, they hit the hot tub and party the night away. The next morning they find themselves transported back to 1986.
"The original script was kind of bonkers," admits Corddry. "My character actually rents a DeLorean thinking it's going to take him back to the present."
Director Steve Pink, who previously wrote the Cusack projects High Fidelity and Grosse Pointe Blank, says the unusual circumstances of HTTM's story weren't so far removed from the actor's past roles. "We struck a ridiculous tone," says Pink. "[Cusack]'s always been brilliant at managing crazy circumstances and then having this really cool and darkly comic view of it. He's our guide through Hot Tub, and he satisfies that very well."
Pink and Cusack have been working together for years. While they usually come together at the end, the two often start from very different sensibilities. "They would talk at the same time," says Craig Robinson, with his trademark dry wit. "They'd have two different [ideas]. I would just look in the middle and then do what I wanted to."
"That's good advice," Pink said with a laugh. "John and I are like Highlander, the warrior friends who battle throughout the centuries and know at the end there can be only one. We've done it so much that we have a shorthand."
While the combo of Cusack, Corddry, Robinson and Duke might look like an unlikely foursome, they complement each other quite well. "They all have a different speed, and so they were able to mesh," says Pink. "They don't crowd each other. They all get laughs from different places, [and] they all give you something different to enjoy. That's how the dynamic of the group is created."
To round out the perfect '80s movie, Pink and Cusack went after a few other '80s icons, casting Glover as a one-armed bellman and Chase as the hot-tub time-travel guru.
In HTTM, most of Chase's lines only serve to further confound the stars. Clark Duke says it wasn't all that different in real life. "[Chevy]'s so funny in real life, just in regular conversation," says Duke. "He's also amazingly politically incorrect. I've never seen anybody do s--t to waiters like him. You're in for a treat unless you're easily offended."
Glover was at first a little hesitant about the deja vu combination of the '80s and time travel, but after reading the script and speaking with Pink and Cusack, he signed on. "Crispin doesn't just do anything," Pink tells press. "Having been in the most famous time-travel movie; he had to weigh that. He had to really like us to go along with this crazy-ass idea."
Hot Tub Time Machine opens in theaters nationwide this Friday.