Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Hot Tub Time Machine

The Cusack influence runs deep through Hot Tub Time Machine, a movie that doesn’t even dare you to take it seriously but tries to be “about” something at the same time. John Cusack has discussed his joining the project already in motion and rushed through the green light by MGM, hustling through an uncredited rewrite with director Steve Pink. There are three other names on the script; I imagine they wrote the blow job jokes and the gay panic while Cusack and Pink inflected the pathos and the redemption arcs.

There are two assholes and two wimps; all four are losers and the only thing that connects them is the hazy “past.” Lou (Rob Corddry) brings his old group back together when he drunkenly passes out in his running car and gets put up in a suicide ward. To cheer him up, old friends Nick (Craig Robinson) and Adam (Cusack) bring him out to the old ski resort where they used to hang in the 80s; Adam’s nephew Jacob (Clark Duke) is along for the ride. Nick abandoned his music career for a loveless marriage, Adam’s girlfriend just left him (taking his television, that bitch!) and Jacob lives in Adam’s basement with zero friends and an addiction to Second Life (wink). Their miseries recall Back to the Future (in set up if not in execution) so it’s a good thing that when they hit Kodiak Valley they’ll be given opportunities to right what went wrong in their lives thanks to the magical hot tub.

That this is so obviously the course of the story makes it incredibly frustrating when the film actually tries to explain its way down the straight and narrow. Especially for a film that’s getting made because of its title and will succeed in its target demo through an abundance of ugly men (because it’s funny when they show their asses) and sexy women (because it’s hot when they show their tits), I can’t believe how much exposition there is in this damn thing.

This is a self-aware movie (read: a movie that sports the production values of a YouTube video about a guy sinking awesome trick shots) that features characters who are aware of and reference time travel as we know it from the popular culture. Given all this, it’s somewhat ridiculous that I have to spend a whole hour watching them try to not change anything because they’re afraid of The Butterfly Effect. The story, of course, isn’t what counts here. What counts is that because of that butterfly effect there will be an increased number of blow jobs and fist fights. And I must admit that for the most part, the movie had me laughing. Nobody deadpans like Robinson and Corddry’s macho posturing, even when his pants are off, is hilariously over-the-top. Begrudgingly, I admit that the consequences of their butterfly effect are pretty cleverly executed.

But it’s really too bad, because even for a movie called Hot Tub Time Machine, a reliance on scatological humor is just that. In sending John Cusack back to the 80s to fix his love life (and casting pop-icon-in-the-making Lizzy Caplan opposite him) the film becomes a sorely missed opportunity. By the time the four heroes finally get to the pinch, begin apologizing amongst themselves and acting towards their goals, the movie tries to wrap up a feature’s worth of romantic subplots in the space of about twenty minutes. It doesn’t have time for any of that, but it does have time for Craig Robinson to sing more of The Black Eyed Peas’ “Let’s Get It Started” than I ever needed to hear again.

Yes, that’s the song he chooses to Marty McFly into the hearts of a dance floor that’s never heard trash-hop. 25 years worth of second-chances and you’re banking your fortune on The Black Eyed Peas? I guess I’m not really in this film’s demographic, am I?


  1. This movie sucks, but you declined to mention its funniest, most bizarre reoccurring gag: Crispen Glover repeatedly ALMOST getting his arm torn off.

  2. I agree with every aspect of this comment.