Hot Tub Time Machine
Author: Josh Heald & Jarrad Paul & Andrew Mogel and Steve Pink
Writer’s Potential: 7
Logline:After accidentally traveling through time to 1986, a group of losers must relive a pivotal weekend in their lives.
Synopsis:After terrifying a group of executives into purchasing disaster insurance, ADAM (handsme, pushing 40) receives a phone call from his (now ex-)girlfriend, who’s in the process of moving out and wants to argue about what she gets to take. That night, Adam comes home to find his nephew, JACOB (19), playing a video game. Adam tries to encourage Jacob to get off the couch and either enroll in college or move back in with his mom. Jacob’s more interested in his game, so Adam rants about the value of having a plan. It falls on deaf ears, enraging Adam. Meanwhile, LOU (late 30s) drives home from work when a good song plays on the radio. He parks in the garage but keeps listening to the song as the car fills with smoke. Adam receives a call from his friend, NICK (late 30s, black), about Lou. Adam rushes to meet Nick and his wife, COURTNEY, at the hospital, where Lou’s in the ER. Adam and Nick have an awkward reunion after not seeing each other for a long time. The doctor tells them that Lou denies he was attempting suicide and he’s now stable, so he must be released. Since nobody in Lou’s family likes him, the doctor tells Lou it’s important he be around friends. Nick reminds Adam of their happy teenage trips to Kodiak Valley. Courtney suggests they take him up there for the weekend. Adam reluctantly agrees.
In Lou’s room, Adam and Nick run through the many reasons Lou has to commit suicide, unaware that Lou is slowly waking up. He’s angry until they bring up Kodiak Valley. Over the weekend, Nick picks them all up. Lou’s unhappy to find Jacob is going with them, but he distracts himself with the massive amount of booze he’s brought. He also proudly shows them cans of “Russian Red Bull,” called “Chernobly.” Adam complains about his ex, and lonely Lou joins him in complaining about all women. They’re both excited about chasing women this weekend. They arrive in Kodiak Valley and discover it’s practically a ghost town instead of the hippest place around. Adam’s depressed. He remembers breaking up with JENNY, who stabs him with a fork. They all know her — she’s the one who got away. They arrive at the Silver Peaks ski lodge, and everyone’s disappointed that the place is populated by little kids, creepy moms, and elderly couples. They check in, and the one-armed bellhop, PHIL, lugs their backpacks to their room. The room turns out to be the same one they stayed in years ago, indicated by obscene carvings in the bedside table.
Outside is an old, dilapidated hot tub. A dead raccoon lies at the bottom. Later, strippers arrive to entertain Lou. When one starts crying, all three of the strippers lock themselves in the bathroom. Disappointed, the guys decide to fill the hot tub and relax. They start drinking, and Adam accidentally knocks a can of Chernobly into one of the tub vents. Lightning blasts out of it, and the water’s whirlpool intensifies, creating some kind of force field around them that knocks them all out. The TV flickers from Gossip Girl to ALF. When the guys wake up in the morning, Adam makes his special hangover-cure breakfast. The guys are all surprised by how energetic and youthful they feel. Nick tries his cell phone but can’t find a signal, just as somebody walks by with a huge, outdated portable phone. They notice everyone’s dressed in suspiciously outdated clothes, and many of them are teens. Nobody knows why. They go out to a particularly steep cliff, which Lou wants to ski down. The others aren’t so sure, but Lou forces them. They end up losing control, skiing all over the place. BLAINE and CHAZ, ski patrols, ban the guys from the slopes for the rest of the day. Back at the snack bar, Nick notices people playing Bon Jovi and enjoying it too much, one guy listening to a cassette Walkman, outdated computers, jheri-curled black men, “Frankie Says Relax” t-shirts… Finally, he sees a banner advertising the band Poison at Kodiak Valley’s Winterfest ‘86. The guys start to panic.
A much younger Phil arrives with luggage — and two arms. Lou urinates and discovers his teenage self looking back at him. The other guys discover the same thing, except for Jacob. Comparing the situation to various movies, Nick decides they must have gone back in time to learn a lesson. They all assume the lesson is about Lou, whose life has turned out the worst. A sinister REPAIR MAN, who seems to know more about the hot tub than he lets on, arrives to repair it. Adam and Jacob discuss the problems with the “butterfly effect,” terrifying the others about what could potentially happen in the present if they changed the past. Adam says they all have to remember what they did during Winterfest ‘86 and do the exact same things. Nick, a former musician, played a disappointing gig and slept with a groupie. Lou got beaten up by Blaine, twice. Adam broke up with Jenny. Just then, Jenny shows up at the room, wondering why she didn’t see them on the slopes. She tells Adam to meet her down in her room. The guys all leer at her and wonder why Adam would break up with her. Even Adam wonders. In the lobby, KELLY (20, slutty), Adam’s sister and Jacob’s future mom, drunkenly stumbles over to Jacob and Adam. Lou is mesmerized by her beauty, while Jacob is horrified by her skankiness. Jacob goes with Lou to find Blaine at the Winterfest street fair. He does, and just like in the past, Blaine pummels Lou for the first time and takes his backpack. Annoyed by his memory of what happened next, Lou invites Blaine to a midnight rematch with his friends.
Adam meets Jenny at her room, and they go out to dinner at a pizza place. Adam decides not to break up with her and takes her fork away. Meanwhile, Nick feels guilty about cheating on his wife with a groupie, but he unhappily takes the plunge. Afterward, he weeps as he confesses that he found an e-mail on Courtney’s computer that implied she was cheating, but it doesn’t make it right for Nick to cheat, as well. The groupie wonders what an e-mail is. At the street fair, Jenny ditches Adam for her friends. Adam meets APRIL, an attractive woman who writes for Rolling Stone. They flirt, but April lets her go. He has his heart set on Jenny. ZOE, an attractive nurse, sees the wounded Lou and invites both him and Jacob back to her apartment. After tending to Lou, she invites them for a threesome. She’s interrupted by a phone call from her mother. Jacob panics, so Lou tries to talk him through it. Jacob gets so creeped out, he runs away. Zoe, who was mainly interested in the threesome, throws Lou out. When all the guys are back in the room, Adam explains that he thinks life will be better if he and Jenny stay together. Lou decides that, if Adam’s going to change his future, so will he. Jacob tries to talk them out of it, but nobody listens to him. Instead, Jacob decides to search for the repair man for answers. Adam returns to Jenny, who breaks up with him. Adam’s angry, and while they shout at each other, Jenny accidentally stabs Adam with a plastic olive sword. Lou takes Nick back to Zoe’s apartment, claiming he needs more medical attention. In reality, he wants to manipulate Nick into a threesome. Nick catches on and leaves.
Jacob drags the repair man back to their room, where Adam is depressed and writing poetry about Jenny. The repair man installs a special part to repair the hot tub, but the new part shorted out yet another part. He wants to get it working before dawn, which “is when the party is over.” Adam accuses the repair man of being responsible for this, but the repair man denies everything, gets angry, and leaves. Adam panics and runs back to the street fair, where he tries to tell Jenny about the misery the future holds. She won’t listen. He tries the same with Kelly, who thinks he’s crazy. Lou and Nick play arcade games when Lou comes up with a brainstorm: they can invent future technology before anyone else. Adam goes to church and shouts at God about fate and his inability to change anything. April appears at the church. She’s confused by his crazy babbling but intrigued. She wants to know what he’s babbling about. Blaine and Chaz dig through Lou’s backpack and find an iPhone and Chernobly. Inspired by Red Dawn, Blaine assumes they’re Communist spies, and it’s up to he and Chaz to stop them. Unable to get into any bars, April and Adam break into a house and raid the liquor cabinet. Adam tells April everything. Surprisingly, she doesn’t think he’s crazy. Lou and Nick get into a fight over future technology. Nick doesn’t want to change the future, so he plays his gig, performing “Hey Ya!” by Outkast to an enthusiastic crowd.
Bitter, Lou gets drunk and stumbles back to the hotel. Blaine, Chaz, and his friends beat Lou to a pulp.The repair man tells Jacob they need the Chernobly in order to get back to the present. Meanwhile, Blaine and Chaz look for the rest of the group to take out the “spies.” Adam and Jacob find Lou’s bloody shoe in the hotel lobby. Adam realizes he missed the fight again. Nick arrives, and the three of them start to go after Lou when April arrives. She reminds Adam she’s leaving and gives him the choice to go with. Adam turns her down. They find Lou at the edge of a cliff. He and Adam argue about his selfishness. Jacob reminds them about the Chernobly, so they put aside their problems and go back. As Lou stands, he slips and almost falls off the cliff. Adam grabs him, but he starts to slide down, so Nick grabs him. They go to the ski patrol house. Adam and Jacob find the backpack, while Lou flirts with Kelly and Nick calls a 9-year-old version of Courtney to apologize. Adam, Jacob, and Nick discover Lou having sex with Kelly. Jacob pushes Lou off of her, then disappears out of existence. Lou realizes he’s Jacob’s father and finishes up with Kelly, causing Jacob to reappear. The entire group takes on Blaine and Chaz, using their fear of Chernobly to their advantage. Back at the hotel, Lou decides to stay, so he can raise Jacob properly. Adam decides he’s going to stay, too, finally standing by his friend. Lou’s touched, so much so that he shoves Adam back in the hot tub just as Jacob dumps the Chernobly into the vent, recreating the time warp.
In the present, they discover Lou has become filthy rich inventing a Google-like website called “Lougle.” He and Kelly got married and now live in a huge mansion. Adam acts as their butler. Preparing for this important weekend, Lou invited both Courtney and April to the house. Adam is surprised to see April, although April hints they’ve been involved for some time. Courtney confesses that, ever since she received a strange, passionate phone call from a man, she could never possibly cheat on Nick.
Comments:Hot Tub Time Machine tries to combine a goofy sci-fi premise with a standard gross-out comedy template. It’s at its best and funniest when it plays with the never-quite-clear rules of time travel, but the story gets a little too bogged down by the many romantic subplots. Despite its problems, the script is entertaining enough to merit a consider.
The first act does a great job of establishing the comic tone, the pathetic main characters, and how one long-ago weekend in Kodiak Valley changed their lives forever. It’s in the second act where problems start to appear. In an apparent effort to give each character equal time, the writers rely on redundant scenes instead of making each character valuable to the overall story. While sporadically amusing, subplots like Lou’s efforts to get into a threesome, Jacob’s pursuit of the hot tub repair man, and even much of Blaine and Chaz’s Commie-hunting adventures are spread out over several scenes when containing them each to one or two short scenes would prevent the script from losing momentum on the way to the third act.
The third act itself contains a lot of laughs and heart on its way to the resolution. Despite all the second-act padding, each 1986-era subplot is resolved in entertaining, often unexpected ways. However, arriving in a present where everyone’s rich and happy, while upbeat, is a little too ridiculous even for this screenplay. Considering their rabid attempts to change the past, it might have been more interesting had the characters learned that their lives would be no better off changing the future.
Adam, Nick, and Lou are all great characters, well-defined and made into interesting individuals. All three are fairly misanthropic, but they manage to maintain an air of likability. The emphasis on the profound, long-term effects this weekend had on each of the characters makes them into victims of bad circumstances instead of bad people. However, Jacob is completely expendable. He adds nothing to the story, serving only as a distraction from the more entertaining, older characters, which contributes to the lack of energy in the second act.
With the exception of one-dimensional caricatures like Zoe and Blaine, each supporting character has just enough development to rise above the level of stereotype, but none of them are as interesting as the main characters. Jenny is intentionally portrayed as shallow and ignorant, making Adam’s obsession with her one of the funnier running gags. Kelly doesn’t have much story time, but thanks to her relationship with Adam, she’s elevated to almost a tragic figure, who uses sex as an outlet for a traumatic childhood until her life is ruined by an unplanned pregnancy.
This script can easily go from good to great by removing the redundant scenes in the second act (and possibly removing the character of Jacob altogether). A capable cast of comic actors will further enhance the script.