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Reel Deal: Eighties are wild again in 'Hot Tub Time Machine'

Robert McCune

At a theater near you

As a child of the ’80s, what I remember most about the movies of that era is:

Wildly improbable plots (“Weird Science,” “Teen Wolf,” “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure”);

Screwball comedy (“Airplane,” “Caddyshack,” “The Naked Gun”);

Lots and lots of hilarious teen angst (“Pretty in Pink,” “The Breakfast Club,” “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”);

Clearly defined heroes and villains;

And gratuitous female nudity.

In many ways, “Hot Tub Time Machine” is a tribute to the movies of the ’80s – far from masterpieces, but a part of our culture nonetheless.

Closer to the point, though, “Hot Tub Time Machine” is what you get when you make an ’80s comedy in 2010.

If you could imagine the cinematic love child of classics “Back to the Future” and “Better Off Dead,” and modern raunchfests “The Hangover” and “Superbad,” it’d look pretty much like this.

It works out perfectly that “HTTM” stars John Cusack – transporting the actor back to the decade in which his wry humor was at its peak with flicks like the aforementioned “Better off Dead” and the more-obscure “One Crazy Summer.”

I firmly believe that ’80s Cusack would be proud of the modern-day version’s latest project. I’m a fan of much of Cusack’s more recent work (among my favorites: “Grosse Pointe Blank,” “Being John Malkovich” and “High Fidelity”), but he hasn’t been a part of anything this gut-bustingly funny in a long time.

It also stars the hilarious Rob Corddry (a “correspondent” alongside Steve Carell for years on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show”), Craig Robinson (Carell’s “Office” co-worker), young’un Clark Duke, and in one of many excellent nods to the 1980s time-travel trilogy “Back to the Future,” Crispin Glover.

Glover (who you should remember as George McFly, father of Michael J. Fox’s Marty McFly in “Back to the Future”) provides one of the recurring gags as the chainsaw-juggling artist and ski lodge bellhop destined to lose a limb before the movie’s over.

The premise, of course, is perfectly ridiculous: Four guys get wasted in a hot tub (which just happens to also be a time machine) at a run-down ski resort and are sent back to 1986, when the resort was in its heyday, overflowing with wild and sexy teenagers.

Cusack (Adam), Corddry (Lou) and Robinson (Nick) inhabit their younger selves (while we see them as old, paunchy, bald and wrinkled, the mirror takes off 20 years).

Duke (Jacob), meanwhile, looks the same in both worlds (aside from occasionally fading away) because, in 1986, he hasn’t been born yet. Like Marty McFly, he has a hard time enjoying himself in the past, believing that the slightest misstep could somehow negate his existence.

There’s no telling what could happen. They try to adhere to the rules of time travel that they’ve learned from pop-culture goldmines “The Terminator,” “The Butterfly Effect” and “Stargate.” And then there are the ramblings of a mysterious, mystical, maddening hot-tub repairman, played by Chevy Chase.

But even as they try to trace the steps of their 1986 selves, they’re remaking history and altering their futures.

Forget the Butterfly Effect – “HTTM” has got the Squirrel Effect, the consequences of which should delight Cleveland Browns fans particularly.

I laughed so hard at this movie, I’m seriously considering doing this time warp again before spring break’s up.

Carell all over

Carell also stars with Paul Rudd (“I Love You, Man”) in “Dinner for Schmucks,” also set for a July release. In it, Rudd plays an executive whose only shot at climbing the ladder may be to invite a bumbling boob, or schmuck (played by Carell), to his boss’s annual dinner – at which hot shot businessmen gang up on the goofballs for a few laughs.

Robert McCune is editor of The Independent in Massillon, Ohio.